Duplex Real-Time Polymerase Chain Reaction Assay for Detection and Quantification of Herpes Simplex Virus Type 1 and Herpes Simplex Virus Type 2 in Genital and Cutaneous Lesions

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A sensitive and specific method for detecting herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1) and herpes simplex virus type 2 (HSV-2) is important for diagnosing genital and cutaneous infections.


The goal of this study was to compare quantitative real-time polymerase chain reaction (qPCR) with virus culture for diagnosis of genital and cutaneous HSV-1 and HSV-2.

Study Design:

A duplex qPCR system for quantification of DNA from HSV-1 and HSV-2 was developed. Duplicate swabs for PCR and virus culture were collected from 89 patients attending our sexually transmitted infection and dermatology clinic.


The duplex qPCR had a linear measure interval of 103–108 copies/mL. The detection limit was between 1 and 5 copies per reaction. qPCR detected HSV in 57 (64%) specimens and virus was isolated in 45 (50%) cases. First-episode infections showed higher viral quantities with a median value of 4.2 × 105 copies per reaction compared with recurrent infections with 1.0 × 104 (P = 0.0002). HSV-1 was more likely to be the cause of first-episode genital infections (72%), and HSV-2 of recurrent and atypical genital manifestations (73%).


Real-time PCR is a sensitive method for diagnosing genital herpes, and the duplex format is convenient for typing. The method increased the detection rate by 27% compared with virus culture.

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