In 126 patients with anogenital lesions, in which herpes simplex virus (HSV) infection was suspected or included in the differential diagnosis, the results of cytodiagnosis of herpetic infection (Tzanck smear) were compared with virus culture. Cervical lesions were excluded from this study. HSV infection was proved by culture in 78 patients and was absent or non-active in 41 patients. Excluded from this study were seven patients who did not yield the virus on culture but had positive Tzanck smear results from three investigators. The characteristic cytopathic effect of herpetic infection was found in 78 patients who yielded HSV on culture. Tzanck smear sensitivity for skin lesions was 79% and for mucous membrane lesions was 81% in men and 52% in women. Tzanck smear specificity for the 41 patients without herpetic infection proved by virus culture was 93%. Differences in sensitivity and specificity between the results found by three investigators (double blind screening) were not significant. The Tzanck smear is reliable, inexpensive, and easy and quick to perform; it is suitable for office diagnosis because it does not require a specialised laboratory.
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