Seroprevalence and correlates of herpes simplex virus type-2 infection in a general gynecology clinic

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BackgroundUp to two-thirds of individuals acquire herpes asymptomatically and most infected persons shed the virus during latency periods. Genital infection is frequently associated with the presence of other sexually transmitted diseases. The objective of this paper was to assess the seroprevalence of HSV-2 in a low risk population and to validate the use of reported symptoms and clinical signs as a possible diagnostic tool to screen for HSV-2.MethodsOne hundred and fifty consecutive women presenting for the first time to the Gynecology outpatient clinic with complaints of vaginal discharge, lower abdominal pain, genital warts or ulcers were enrolled over a period of 4 months. Samples were taken and laboratory tests were performed to evaluate the presence of common reproductive tract infections including HSV-2.ResultsIn this study, using a validated type specific assay, we found an unexpected high prevalence of HSV-2 (35 subjects, 23.3%). Of the 147 women who presented with the symptom of vaginal discharge, 34 (23.1%) tested positive for HSV-2. On examination cervical erosion and tenderness was noted in 50 women, in 23 (46%) of whom HSV-2 tested positive. On univariate analysis, no significant association was found between selected demographic factors, STIs and NSTIs and HSV-2. The association between previous abortion and HSV-2 was however, statistically significant. Also, none of the women who had HSV-2 positivity tested positive for HIV.ConclusionThe high HSV-2 seroprevalence in this low risk population may indicate a high risk for future acquisition of HIV in this population. Cervical erosion and hypertrophy as a possible clinical marker for HSV-2 has low positive predictive value and cannot be recommended as a possible diagnostic tool to screen for HSV-2 in resource poor settings.

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