HSV DNA (CSF)
Does this test have other names?
Herpes simplex 1 infection, herpes simplex 2 infection
What is this test?
This test looks for the herpes simplex virus (HSV) DNA in your cerebrospinal fluid
(CSF). It diagnoses herpes simplex infection in the nervous system. The test is especially
useful to find out if HSV is causing an infection of the brain (encephalitis) or an
infection of the fluid around the spinal cord and brain (meningitis).
There are 2 types of HSV: HSV-1 and HSV-2. HSV-1 generally causes oral herpes. Oral
herpes causes blisters called cold sores. HSV-2 causes genital herpes. This causes
sores on the genitals. Both types of herpes can also affect other parts of your body.
Other symptoms might include headaches, fever, and general discomfort such as body
HSV is the most common type of genital ulcer illness. First-time infections are usually
more severe than later outbreaks.
You can get HSV from having unprotected sex with an infected partner. If your immunity
is weakened, you may be more likely to get HSV. Menstruation, extreme tiredness (fatigue),
and illness can trigger an HSV outbreak.
In rare cases, HSV causes more severe infections. These include encephalitis and meningitis.
HSV can be passed from a pregnant woman to her unborn baby. Infection in the baby
may affect the skin, eyes, mouth, central nervous system, or many organs.
You may have a miscarriage if your unborn baby gets herpes early in your pregnancy.
You should not give birth to a baby through your vagina if you have an active herpes
infection. A C-section is advised in this case.
Why do I need this test?
You may be given this test if your healthcare provider thinks that you have meningitis
or encephalitis caused by HSV.
Symptoms of HSV infection of the nervous system include:
General discomfort, such as body aches
For women, small sores on the cervix, vagina, and inner thighs
For men, sores on the glans and shaft of the penis and anal area
Confusion or disorientation
What other tests might I have along with this test?
Your healthcare provider will also ask about your health history and give you a physical
exam. You may also need blood tests or X-rays.
What do my test results mean?
Test results may vary depending on your age, gender, health history, the method used
for the test, and other things. Your test results may not mean you have a problem.
Ask your healthcare provider what your test results mean for you.
A negative test result may mean that you don't have the infection. But false-negative
results may happen. If your healthcare provider thinks you may have HSV infection
and your test result is negative, the test may be repeated within 1 week.
How is this test done?
This test is done with a sample of your cerebrospinal fluid. Your healthcare provider
will take the sample through a lumbar puncture (LP) using a thin needle. The needle
will be pushed into your lower back, and fluid will be removed.
Does this test pose any risks?
A lumbar puncture has these risks:
What might affect my test results?
Your normal activities won't affect your test results.
How do I get ready for this test?
You don't need to prepare for this test. But be sure your healthcare provider knows
about all medicines, herbs, vitamins, and supplements you are taking. This includes
medicines that don't need a prescription and any illegal drugs you may use.