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Systematic review of the literature on viral persistence and sexual transmission from recovered Ebola survivors: evidence and recommendations
  1. Anna Thorson1,2,
  2. Pierre Formenty1,
  3. Clare Lofthouse1,
  4. Nathalie Broutet1
  1. 1World Health Organization (WHO), Geneva, Switzerland
  2. 2Department of Public Health Sciences, Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden
  1. Correspondence to Professor Anna Thorson; Anna.Thorson{at}


Objective The main aim of this article is to present a comprehensive, systematic review on evidence of sexual transmission from Ebola survivors and persistence of Ebola virus in body fluids of relevance to sexual transmission, and additionally to review condom effectiveness against sexual transmission of Ebola.

Design We performed a systematic review of viral persistence in body fluids of relevance to sexual transmission of Ebola survivors and evidence of sexual transmission of Ebola, and carried out a targeted review of condom effectiveness.

Results We identified nine published original articles presenting results on persistence of Ebola virus in relevant body fluids, or reporting suspect sexual transmission from Ebola survivors. We also included unpublished reports from the current 2014/2015 Ebola epidemic in West Africa. We found no articles reporting on condom effectiveness, but have included a targeted review on general condom efficacy and effectiveness.

Conclusions We conclude that the risk of sexual transmission from people who have recovered from Ebola cannot be ruled out. We found the longest duration of persistent Ebola RNA in a relevant body fluid from a survivor, to be reported from a man in Sierra Leone who had reverse transcriptase PCR (RT-PCR) positive semen 284 days after symptom onset. In line with current WHO recommendations. We recommend that men are offered the possibility to test their semen regularly for presence of Ebola RNA from3 months post-symptom onset. Safe sex practices including sexual abstinence, or else condom use, are recommended by WHO until semen has tested negative twice, or in absence of testing for at least 6 months post-symptom onset. Based on evidence reviewed, we conclude that male and female latex condoms offer some protection against EBOV compared to no condom use. Survivors should be offered access to care and prevention, in order to provide them with possibilities to mitigate any risks that may occur, and efforts should be linked to destigmatising activities.

This is an Open Access article distributed in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial (CC BY-NC 4.0) license, which permits others to distribute, remix, adapt, build upon this work non-commercially, and license their derivative works on different terms, provided the original work is properly cited and the use is non-commercial. See:

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