First case of woman-to-man spread of Zika via sex reported

zika watch 7/15

It now appears that women can pass Zika virus to men through sex.

U.S. health officials have reported the first known case of female-to-male sexual transmission of Zika virus. The woman, who was not pregnant, had traveled to a Zika-afflicted region, the U.S. Centers of Disease Control and Prevention reports July 15. On the day of her return to New York City, she had vaginal intercourse with a male partner, who wasn’t wearing a condom.

Three days later, after developing a rash, fever and other symptoms, doctors detected Zika virus RNA in her blood and urine. A week after sex, the woman’s partner, who had not recently traveled outside the United States and had not noticed any mosquito bites, developed similar symptoms. Tests revealed that he also had Zika RNA in his urine.

Scientists knew that men could transmit Zika to women through sex, and had hints that reverse was true as well. Earlier this month, researchers detected Zika RNA in the genital tract of an infected woman. 

Meghan Rosen is a staff writer who reports on the life sciences for Science News. She earned a Ph.D. in biochemistry and molecular biology with an emphasis in biotechnology from the University of California, Davis, and later graduated from the science communication program at UC Santa Cruz.

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