Objectives To develop, evaluate and implement a new multiplex real-time PCR test for the detection of herpes simplex virus (HSV)1, HSV2 and syphilis in a single sample using a single test.
Methods A multiplex real-time PCR test detecting HSV1, HSV2 and Treponema pallidum was designed, validated and evaluated for a period of 6 months on patients attending the Sandyford Initiative (a series of genitourinary medicine clinics in and around Glasgow). A total of 692 samples were tested, and T pallidum PCR positives were confirmed by a second PCR at the Scottish Reference Laboratory (SBSTIRL). All PCR results were aligned with dark ground microscopy findings and serological results where available and compared.
Results The laboratory validation of the multiplex assay showed the test to be sensitive, specific and robust. Of the 692 samples, 139 were positive for HSV1, 136 for HSV2, 15 for syphilis, one for both syphilis and HSV1, and 401 were negative; the reference laboratory confirmed all T pallidum PCR-positive samples. The PCR test was more sensitive than both dark ground microscopy and serological testing for the diagnosis of primary syphilis.
Conclusions The introduction of this new test has led to a better turnaround time for the diagnosis of genital ulcer disease, better detection of primary syphilis infection, and the detection of unexpected cases of syphilis where the aetiological agent suspected was HSV.
- Herpes simplex virus
- real-time PCR
- Treponema pallidum
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Competing interests None.
Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.