Ebola virus can persist in the semen of survivors for up to nine months after their recovery, a new study has confirmed.
The results recall the importance of monitoring survivors in order to prevent the risks of new epidemic outbreaks, researchers said.
An international team of researchers including scientists from the Institute for Development Research in France monitored 450 patients, both men and women, for one year in Guinea.
They took specimens of body fluids (tears, saliva, faeces, vaginal fluids and semen), on the first day of the study, and every three months thereafter.
In order to detect the presence of the Ebola virus in these fluids, researchers used molecular biology techniques employing the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) and detection of ribonucleic acid (RNA), in hospitals in Guinea.
The results relate to 98 specimens taken from 68 different people. Ebola virus was detected in 10 specimens taken from eight men, for up to 9 months after recovery.
In addition, researchers showed that the persistence of the virus in semen decreases with time - the virus, present in 28.5 per cent of samples taken between the first and third months, was subsequently detected in only 16 per cent between the fourth and sixth months, in 6.5 per cent between the seventh and ninth months, 3.5 per cent between the tenth and 12th months, and finally 0 per cent after 12 months.
The results confirm the findings published last year in the New England Journal of Medicine on a cohort of survivors in Sierra Leone.
Researchers emphasised the need to recommend, at an international level, the use of condoms by survivors in the months following their recovery.
They also insisted on the importance of developing survivor monitoring, or even making it systematic, in order to limit the risks of a recrudescence of the epidemic.
The findings were published in the Journal of Infectious Diseases.