Screening for Asymptomatic Genital Herpes

Is Serologic Testing Worth It?

Leia Raphaelidis, FNP


Journal for Nurse Practitioners. 2014;10(3):194-199. 

In This Article

Asymptomatic Genital Herpes: More Common Than You Think

Most genital herpes is associated with HSV-2, and it is uncommon for HSV-2 to take hold outside the anogenital region. Therefore, the presence of HSV-2 antibodies in serum can be taken as an indicator of genital herpes.[2] (pS176) According to the most recent data from the CDC, seroprevalence of HSV-2 in the US was estimated to be 16.2%, with a prevalence of 20.9% among women and 11.5% among men.[9]

To further complicate the diagnostic picture, an increasing number of new cases of genital herpes are caused by HSV-1, the virus usually associated with herpes labialis.[10] Because a positive HSV-1 IgG does not identify the site of infection, the test cannot be used to specifically screen for asymptomatic genital HSV-1. Therefore, the total prevalence of genital HSV (ie, type 1 and type 2) is presumed to be even higher than the CDC's 16.2%.