Seroprevalence of HSV-1 and HSV-2 infection in the general French population

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Background:In spite of the large prevalence and growing incidence of herpes simplex infection (HSV-1 and HSV-2), relatively few large serological surveys are available worldwide and it is still difficult compare frequencies of HSV contaminations in various countries. We present the results of HERPIMAX, the first epidemiological inquiry on HSV prevalence in the general French population.Methods:Of a cohort of 12 735 presumed healthy adult volunteers included in the prospective study SU.VI.MAX, designed to assess the relation between nutritional supplementations and degenerative diseases, HERPIMAX randomly selected 4412 subjects (females 66.5%, males 33.5%). All serum samples were assessed for HSV-1 and HSV-2 IgG antibodies with a HSV type specific, enzyme immunosorbent assay (EIA). Equivocal result were retested with another HSV type specific immunoblot assay combined with a type common HSV IgG EIA in order to give a definitive interpretation.Results:The mean seroprevalence was 67% for HSV-1 and 17.2% for HSV-2. For HSV-2 the seroprevalence was higher in females (17.9%) compared with males (13.7%) (p <0.001). For both HSV types, there was no significant difference in prevalence as regards age distribution in males and females, whereas prevalence increased significantly with age in females for HSV-1. Univariate analysis showed a significant association between HSV-1 prevalence and education level in males and females (p <0.001) and between HSV-2 prevalence and marital status in both sexes (p <0.001). There were geographical disparities, with a higher HSV-2 prevalence in the south of France as well as in Paris.Conclusion:These results confirm a high prevalence of HSV infection in France. They are also in agreement with previous results of other survey carried out in other developed countries as regards higher prevalence of HSV-2 infection in women, the stability of seroprevalence for both HSV types after 35 years of age in females and 45 years of age in males.

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