Persistence of ZIKV-RNA in the cellular fraction of semen is accompanied by a surrogate-marker of viral replication. Diagnostic implications for sexual transmission

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As asymptomatic infections represent 80% of ZIKV-infected individuals, sexual transmission is a rising concern. Recent studies highlighted a preferential association of ZIKV with the cellular fraction (CF) of different specimen types. Our aim was to evaluate the presence of ZIKV-RNA in different body fluids, focusing on semen specimens to assess the ZIKV-RNA content in either the unfractionated sample, its CF or seminal plasma (SP). In addition, to establish if the presence of ZIKV genome was associated with active virus replication, we measured the levels of negative-strand ZIKV-RNA. ZIKV total-RNA was detected in blood, urine and unfractionated semen, and neg-RNA in semen CF and SP samples longitudinally collected from two ZIKV-positive men followed at the National Institute for Infectious Diseases "L. Spallanzani", Italy. In both patients, ZIKV total-RNA was detected in CF with ct values always lower than in the corresponding unfractionated samples, and was observed even in the CF from negative unfractionated semen samples. In Patient 2, neg-RNA was also detected in CF, suggesting ongoing viral replication. Our results demonstrate higher clinical sensitivity of CF as compared to whole semen testing, emphasizing the need to extend ZIKV-RNA testing to CF, to rule out virus presence and the possible risk of sexual transmission.

Original languageEnglish
JournalNew Microbiologica
Issue number4
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - Nov 7 2017



  • Journal Article

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