Herpes tests are done to find the
herpes simplex virus (HSV). Results for a rapid viral
culture may take 2 to 3 days, while results for a standard culture can take up
to 14 days. Antigen detection test results are ready in a day. Polymerase chain
reaction (PCR) test results are ready in 1 to 3 days. Results from an antibody
blood test are ready in 2 days. The results from an antibody test called an
enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA, EIA) may be ready in about 2
Normal results are called
No HSV grows in the viral
DNA are found.
antibodies are present in the blood.
Abnormal results that show HSV are called
HSV grows in the viral culture.
HSV antigens or DNA are found.
Antibodies to the herpes virus are present
in the blood.
Samples taken from newly formed sores containing fluid
(blisters) are generally better than samples collected from older, crusted
A normal (negative) test result does not mean you do not
have a herpes infection. If the first test is negative but you have symptoms of
herpes, more tests may be done.
What Affects the Test
Reasons you may not be able to
have the test or why the results may not be helpful include:
What To Think About
- Normal test results do not mean you do not have
a herpes infection.
- Herpes is often diagnosed by symptoms and by
knowing whether the person has had contact with an infected person. Sometimes a
test is not needed. A person who has
genital herpes needs to learn how to avoid spreading
the disease, because the disease is more likely to be spread when he or she has
sores. If you have recurrent outbreaks, especially during times of stress or
illness, you can also spread the disease.
- You may want to know
whether a herpes infection is due to HSV-1 or HSV-2 so you can take steps to
prevent or treat outbreaks.
- A genital herpes infection can be
spread from a mother to her baby during vaginal delivery. In a newborn, herpes
can cause organ failure, brain infection, and death. If active herpes is
present near the time of delivery, a cesarean delivery (C-section) may be done to prevent infecting the
- Rapid tests are available at some clinics that check blood
from a finger stick for antibodies to HSV-2. The results are generally ready in
about 10 minutes. These tests are more expensive than other tests and may not
be available everywhere.