Genital herpes is one of the most prevalent sexually transmitted infections (STIs) in North America. Despite its prevalence, most people are unaware of their status.
In a majority of cases, genital herpes does not present itself with any noticeable symptoms. This means that one could contract the infection and pass the virus on to others unwittingly. Even when people exhibit signs and symptoms, these may resemble various other conditions.
Without proper testing, it is impossible to ascertain whether you have genital herpes. Hence, if you notice blisters in your genital area, your primary physician can test you for the infection to reach a definitive diagnosis.
Most Common Herpes Test Options
The two primary options for herpes test include the PCR blood test and a cell culture.
A PCR blood test can detect genital herpes even if a patient is entirely asymptomatic. It identifies traces of the virus’ genetic composition. The PCR blood test is easily the most reliable herpes test to accurately detect genital herpes.
A cell culture is also an option; this method involves getting a tissue sample from the area with blisters. Then, under a microscope, the tissue sample will be examined for the herpes virus.
Both of these tests may yield a false-negative result in individuals whose blisters are in the process of healing or if the infection is recent. Additionally, it takes the body up to several weeks to detect herpes antibodies, which can result in a false-negative even if you have the infection. On the other hand, a false-positive result is also common. Therefore, an individual who gets a positive herpes test result despite being low-risk may have to be re-tested.
Both cell culture and PCR blood test can detect the herpes virus, but it is still not easy to determine the time of infection. You might have contracted the herpes virus long before you ever experience your initial outbreak.
Other Herpes Test Options
In addition to the two herpes test options, antibody tests can also detect genital herpes. The immune system produce antibodies as a reaction to the virus. An antibody test is a form of direct fluorescent antibody testing in which herpes antibodies and a fluorescent dye are mixed into the patient’s tissue sample to be observed under a specialty microscope.
Antibody tests can also identify whether a patient has HSV-1 (cold sores) or HSV-2 (genital herpes). HSV-1 can also be transmitted through sexual activity, but HSV-1 is typically passed on via oral sex while HSV-2 is usually spread during vaginal or anal intercourse.
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