Adenoviruses are a collection of DNA viruses that most often cause respiratory diseases and conjunctivitis of the eye, but some of these viruses also affect vaginal mucosa and genital and reproductive tract tissue.

Adenoviruses (Ad) are not a well-known as a cause of sexually transmitted infection. One study1 found that amongst 7,000 people who attended at STI clinic or other health department for genital ulcers, urethritis or conjunctivitis (in the eye), 23 people were found to have adenovirus in their specimens. Amongst the 20 positive men, 15 had urethritis, 12 had conjunctivitis, and 10 had both. The three women who had Ad-positive cultures had Ad type 37, and both the conjunctiva and urethra had Ad isolates.


  • Urethritis
  • Conjunctivitis
  • Vulvar lesions/ulcers, looks like herpes

Types of Ad found

Ad isolates were available from 17 patients,with the following findings:

  • Ad type 37 – 14 patients – 3 patients had both urethral and conjunctival specimens
  • Ad type 8 –  2 patients –  conjunctivitis
  • Ad type 2 – 1 patient – no conjunctivitis

Ads may be a sexually transmissible cause of genital ulcers, urethritis and conjunctivitis. 

About Adenovirus

There are 47 currently recognised adenovirus serotypes, and from there they are divided into six subgroups, from A through F. Ads are linked with a wide spectrum of illnesses.

Illnesses and subtypes of Ads

  • Ad types 3 and 7 (B), and Ad types 1, 2, and 5 (C) often cause respiratory illness in children
  • Ad types 8, 19, and 37 (D) – often cause epidemic keratoconjunctivitis (EKC)
  • Ad types 40 and 41 (F) often cause gastroenteritis in infants and young children
  • Subgenus A and E and other Ad serotypes are less common causes of disease in humans or are not pathogenic

Ads in the genital tract

  • Types 19 and 37 have been isolated from the genital tracts of patients in STI clinics in Australia, The Netherlands, Italy, and Sweden
  • More rarely, types 1, 2, 8, 9, 10, 22, 26, and 32 have been isolated from urethral swabs
  • Types 2 and 18 have been found in endometrial tissue
  • Type 2 has been found in cervical swabs
  • Genital Ad infections are associated with urethritis and penile ulcers in men
  • Genital Ad infections are associated with cervicitis and labial ulcers in women
  • Conjunctivitis may appear in either gender


These infections are generally self-limiting, which means, they cure themselves. Treatments are up for debate, and remain controversial, particularly in immunocompromised patients.


  1.  The Journal of Clinical Microbiology, 1995. Adenovirus types 2, 8, and 37 associated with genital infections in patients attending a sexually transmitted disease clinic. Swenson PD, Lowens MS, Celum CL, Hierholzer JC.,  Oct;33(10):2728-31

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