Herpes Simplex Virus Culture and Typing
Does this test have other names?
What is this test?
This test looks for which type of herpes simplex virus (HSV) is causing your infection.
HSV is a common virus that comes in two types: HSV1 and HSV2. Each type of HSV causes
a number of health problems. Viral culture is the best test to confirm a herpes simplex
HSV1 is more common. It's carried in saliva and typically causes outbreaks of cold
sores around the mouth.
HSV2 affects the genitals and is spread by sexual contact. HSV1 can cause genital
outbreaks, too, often from oral sex. Herpes sores can also develop on the hands and
buttocks, around the eyes, and across large areas of the body.
This test works better in people having a first outbreak of HSV rather than those
with recurring infections.
Why do I need this test?
You may need this test to find out whether you have a herpes infection. With outbreaks
on the face, symptoms can include:
Swollen lymph nodes in the neck
Sores on the lips, tongue, face, palate, and gums
Genital HSV infections can cause:
You may also need this test if you have symptoms of meningitis, or inflammation of
the protective membranes covering the brain. HSV can also cause meningitis. Symptoms
You may also need this test if you have symptoms of encephalitis, or brain inflammation.
What other tests might I have along with this test?
Your healthcare provider may also order other tests to check for:
If your doctor suspects that your brain has been affected by the infection, he or
she may order a viral DNA test of your cerebrospinal fluid, the fluid around your
brain and spinal cord.
What do my test results mean?
Many things may affect your lab test results. These include the method each lab uses
to do the test. Even if your test results are different from the normal value, you
may not have a problem. To learn what the results mean for you, talk with your healthcare
Test results are generally available in 1-2 days. Normal results are negative, meaning
that no HSV was found in your sample. Positive results mean that HSV was found. The
results may also show which type of HSV you have.
How is this test done?
This test requires a sample of fluid from a herpes sore or from genital secretions.
Your doctor will collect the sample by gently pressing a soft swab into one or more
sores, or placing the swab on the tip of the penis or in the vagina.
Does this test pose any risks?
You may feel discomfort when the doctor takes the sample from a sore.
What might affect my test results?
Washing the sores with certain cleansers, including alcohol, may kill the virus and
affect your results. If sores have started to heal, they may be less likely to have
How do I get ready for this test?
You don't need to prepare for this test.