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Can KS be transmiteed through oral sex?
Feb 3, 2002

What do you make of the report in JAMA this month that KS may be transmitted through oral sex? Thanks. ELN

Response from Dr. Dezube

Dear ELN

You ask a REALLY difficult question. This association between the virus, which causes Kaposi's sarcoma, and oral sex was reported not just by the Journal of the American Medical Association as you indicated, but also by the New England Journal of Medicine (2000:343:1369). I'll concentrate on the New England Journal article, which reported that deep kissing is associated with transmission of the herpes virus that causes Kaposi's sarcoma (KS). The researchers studied gay men withOUT KS. What they showed is that roughly one-third of gay men withOUT KS will test positive for the herpes virus (also known as KS-virus). The researchers then took these men with the virus and showed that half of these men will have the KS virus in their saliva (I hope I'm not confusing you with all these data). The bottom line is that your concern in real.

HOWEVER, we need to put this in some type of perspective!! There are many viruses which are transmissible by the saliva. In some areas of Italy the rates of KS-virus are extremely high. Yet the vast majority of Italians in those areas do NOT have KS, though they will have evidence of infection by the virus. What I am trying to say is that even if a man transmits the KS-virus, this does NOT mean that his partner will develop KS.


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