A  A  A

Herpes test

Sponsored Links

What is a Herpes Test?

The herpes virus is spread through contact with the skin only during the active stage. Though it is neither life-threatening nor debilitating, it can be uncomfortable for sufferers whenever there is an eruption of these blisters. The two common types of the Herpes simplex virus 1 and 2, HSV-1 and HSV-2, cause blisters on the skin and mucous membranes of the facial area (mouth, throat and nose) and the urogenital area (urethra, rectum, vagina/ penis). As a rule HSV-1 causes oral herpes while HSV-2 leads to genital herpes.

The test for genital herpes may be conducted separately or may also be offered on request as part of STD testing. It looks for both, HSV-1 and HSV-2.

Why is it conducted?

  • Once infected, there is no cure for this virus but medicines can shorten the duration and discomfort of outbreaks.
  • The herpes virus normally stays in the dormant stage within the body after the first episode of blisters. Testing helps to prevent spread of infection to sexual partners through the use of protection.
  • It also helps to identify whether the infection is from HSV-1 or HSV-2.

Who should go for it?

  • Pregnant women are advised to have this test as they can pass on the infection to their baby during normal delivery. This is especially risky if there is an active genital herpes outbreak at the time of delivery. Herpes infection for a newborn baby can be very risky and may even lead to death.
  • Persons who have multiple partners or if their partner has multiple partners.
  • Persons who have had unprotected sex with an unknown partner.
  • Persons with symptoms that point to a herpes infection, such as, blisters in the genital area that appear to be filled with fluid or cold sores in and around the mouth.

Procedure

Sponsored Links

There are several types of tests available for the diagnosis of herpes.

Viral culture:

The best time to have this test is within 48 hours at the time of an active infection. A swab is taken from the infected area. Test results can be had in 2-3 days if it is a rapid test otherwise you can expect results in about two weeks.

Antigen detection test: 

In this again, a swab is taken from a fresh sore. However, this is then stained and examined under a microscope to look for the virus. Results will be available in one day.

Antibody test: 

This should be done after 3 to 4 months of possible exposure for sufficient number of antibodies to have developed in the blood stream. This is a simple blood test and results can be had in a couple of days.

PCR DNA test:

This is a blood test which looks for the DNA of the virus and can also differentiate between the two strains of the virus. It can also be carried out on other body fluids too such as spinal fluid.

Interpretation of results

Viral culture:

The result may be negative or positive. A definite drawback is that the virus may not always be detected, if the swab is collected from an old sore or a very small one.

Antigen detection test: 

Sponsored Links

The same problem as in the viral culture can come up here. Both the viral culture and the antigen test do not distinguish between the two types of the virus.

Antibody test: 

This test indicates whether the antibodies are present or absent.

PCR DNA test: 

Results may state whether any DNA has been observed or not.

Written by: Nandita tripati

Date last updated: January 09, 2015