Vol 84, No 7 (2013)

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Laboratory diagnosis of genital herpes – direct immunofluorescence method

Anna Majewska, Ewa Romejko-Wolniewicz, Julia Zaręba-Szczudlik, Marek Kilijańczyk, Małgorzata Gajewska, Grażyna Młynarczyk
DOI: 10.17772/gp/1613
Ginekol Pol 2013;84(7).


Objectives: Aim of the study was to determine clinical usefulness of direct immunofluorescence method in the laboratory diagnosis of genital herpes in women. Material and methods: Overall 187 anogenital swabs were collected from 120 women. Using a dacron-tipped applicator, 83 swabs were collected from women suspected of genital herpes and 104 from patients with no signs of genital infection. All samples were tested using cell culture (Vero cell line) and then direct immunofluorescence method (DIF) for the identification of antigens of herpes simplex viruses: HSV-1 and HSV-2. Results: Characteristic cytopathic effect (CPE), indicative of alphaherpesvirus infection, was observed in 43.4% of cultures with clinical specimens collected from women with suspected genital herpes and in 29.8% of cultures of clinical specimens taken from patients with no clinical symptoms of genital herpes. Herpes simplex viruses were determined in 73 samples by direct immunofluorescence method after amplification of the virus in cell culture. The DIF test confirmed the diagnosis based on the microscopic CPE observation in 85%. In 15% of samples (taken from pregnant women without clinical signs of infection) we reported positive immunofluorescence in the absence of CPE. The frequency of antigen detection was statistically significantly higher in samples that were positive by culture study (chi-square test with Yates’s correction, p <0.01). This method proved to be highly sensitive (97%) in women with clinically suspected infection. High negative predictive value (99%) proves the clinical utility of the DIF in these group of patients. In asymptomatic infections, viral antigens were detected most frequently in the swabs from the cervical canal, and in cases of suspected genital herpes in swabs taken from the vestibule of the vagina and the vulva. However, there was no statistically significant difference in the frequency of detection of Herpes Simplex Virus antigens in specimens from different parts of the genital tract in both groups of women (chi-square test, p> 0.05). In our study HHV-1 was the main causative agent of genital herpes. Conclusions: The growing worldwide prevalence of genital herpes, challenges with the clinical diagnosis, and availability of effective antiviral therapy, are the main reasons for a growing interest in rapid, proper laboratory diagnosis of infected patients. Optimal testing diagnostic algorithm depends on patient population, clinical circumstances and availability. Our results indicated that combination of laboratory tests may help to establish the diagnosis if genital herpes is suspected but there are no typical signs.

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