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The herpes viral culture of lesion test, also known as the herpes simplex virus culture, is a laboratory test that is used to determine if a skin sore contains the herpes simplex virus (HSV).
HSV infections are quite common. HSV is found in two forms: herpes simplex virus-1 (HSV-1) and herpes simplex virus-2 (HSV-2).
HSV-1 is the main cause of conditions like cold sores and fever blisters. This virus is spread through casual contact, like sharing drinking glasses and eating utensils. According to one study, between 60 and 90 percent of older adults worldwide have been exposed to HSV-1.
HSV-2 is primarily spread through sexual contact with someone who has the virus. HSV-2 is responsible for genital herpes.
Once a person is infected with HSV, there is no cure. Outbreaks of HSV may occur frequently or only once in a person’s life.
Skin or genital sores that have been infected with HSV are often diagnosed in a clinical setting through a physical exam. Even though your doctor can often identify and diagnose a herpes skin lesion without laboratory testing, there are cases when diagnosis may be difficult to confirm. When this occurs, your doctor may order a herpes viral culture lesion test.
There are situations in which the virus poses a significant health threat. For example, the virus can be life-threatening when it’s present in children, in people with compromised immune systems, or in people with HSV infections of the eye. Pregnant women are also tested for HSV infections because the virus can be dangerous for unborn babies.
If you have health complications, like a compromised immune system, the detection of HSV is vital. Since HSV can be life-threatening in these conditions, a correct diagnosis is needed to ensure that treatment is provided in a timely manner.
To perform a herpes viral culture of lesion test, your doctor will collect a skin sample from a sore they suspect is infected. For the test to be effective, your doctor will need to collect a skin sample at the height of your outbreak.
The test is typically performed in a clinical setting by a qualified healthcare provider. They will need to scrape the sore to collect fluid and cells from the skin.
You may experience some discomfort during the procedure. For skin lesions, you may encounter a scraping sensation. If your lesion is located in your throat or eye, a sterile swab must be used for sample collection. This may result in some discomfort when your doctor rubs the swab on the lesion.
Your sample will be placed in a laboratory container and taken to a lab for analysis. At the lab, the sample is placed in a dish and observed for 16 hours or up to seven days to monitor the growth of the virus. Results from the test are typically reported to your doctor within two to four days.
The risks of the herpes viral culture of lesion test are minimal. These risks are associated with any type of procedure that requires scraping of the skin and include:
Results of the herpes viral culture of lesion test are based on whether or not the virus grows from your skin sample in a laboratory.
If the virus does not grow, then your results are negative. This means that you don’t have an active herpes infection at the site where the culture was taken. However, a negative culture doesn’t mean that you don’t have herpes.
Growth of the virus from the collected sample indicates that your sore is infected with the herpes virus. Based on these findings, your doctor will prescribe a treatment for the infection.
Written by: Darla Burke
Medically reviewed on: Dec 09, 2016: Mark R. Laflamme, MD
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