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HSV testing is used to detect the presence of the herpes simplex virus in those who have genital sores, encephalitis, and in newborns suspected of having neonatal herpes, a rare but serious condition in which herpes is contracted during birth. A pregnant woman who has been diagnosed with herpes may be monitored regularly prior to delivery to identify a reactivation of her infection, which would indicate the necessity for a caesarean section to avoid infecting the baby.

HSV antibody testing is ordered primarily when a patient is being screened for a previous exposure to HSV. Occasionally, acute and convalescent HSV antibody testing may be ordered when a current infection is suspected.

A positive herpes simplex culture or HSV DNA test from a vesicle scraping indicates an active HSV-1 or HSV-2 infection. A negative test result indicates that the herpes simplex virus was not isolated but does not definitely rule out the presence of virus. This is because if the specimen taken does not contain actively replicating virus or if the sample was not transported under optimum conditions, no viable virus may be detectable, resulting in a false negative result.

The presence of HSV-1 or HSV-2 IgM antibodies indicates an active or recent infection. HSV-1 or HSV-2 IgG antibodies indicate a previous infection. A significant increase in HSV IgG antibodies, measured by comparing acute and convalescent samples, indicates an active or recent infection. Negative HSV antibody results mean that it is unlikely that the person has been exposed to HSV or that the body has not had time to begin producing HSV antibodies.

The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed physician should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions.

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