What is the role of Tzanck smear in the diagnosis of herpes simplex virus (HSV)?

Updated: Mar 01, 2018
  • Author: Folusakin O Ayoade, MD; Chief Editor: Michael Stuart Bronze, MD  more...
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Answer

The characteristic cytologic changes induced by HSV can be demonstrated in Tzank smears (see Procedures); however, this procedure does not distinguish between HSV-1 and HSV-2.

Rapid diagnosis (usually within an hour) is possible based on the histological appearance of the lesion.

Multinucleated giant cells and epithelial cells containing eosinophilic intranuclear inclusion bodies distinguish the lesions of herpesviruses.

Punch biopsy provides more reliable material for histological examination, particularly when lesions are infected with bacteria and fungi.


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