MONDAY, April 27, 2020 (HealthDay News) -- You can't hug or shake hands these days without risking coronavirus infection, but new research finds that sexual intercourse might be safe.
Researchers analyzed semen samples from 34 men in China an average of one month after they were diagnosed with mild to moderate cases of COVID-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus.
Laboratory tests did not detect the coronavirus in any of the semen samples, and there was no evidence of the virus in the men's testes, according to the study published online recently in the journal Fertility and Sterility.
While this small study suggests that the chances of sexual transmission of the coronavirus are remote, it wasn't comprehensive enough to fully rule out the possibility, the researchers noted.
"The fact that in this small, preliminary study that it appears the virus that causes COVID-19 doesn't show up in the testes or semen could be an important finding," said study co-author Dr. James Hotaling, an associate professor of urology specializing in male fertility at University of Utah Health.
"If a disease like COVID-19 were sexually transmittable, that would have major implications for disease prevention and could have serious consequences for a man's long-term reproductive health," he said in a university news release.
Along with the small number of patients, another limitation of the study was that none of them were severely ill with COVID-19, the authors noted.
"It could be that a man who is critically ill with COVID-19 might have a higher viral load, which could lead to a greater likelihood of infecting the semen. We just don't have the answer to that right now," Hotaling said.
"But knowing that we didn't find that kind of activity among the patients in this study who were recovering from mild to moderate forms of the disease is reassuring," he added.
And despite the findings, Hotaling warned that intimate contact can still increase the risk of spreading the coronavirus through coughing, sneezing and kissing.
He also cautioned that some infected people don't have symptoms and appear healthy, but can still transmit the coronavirus to others.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more on COVID-19.
SOURCE: University of Utah Health, news release, April 22, 2020