OBJECTIVES: To investigate the indications for the use of a type specific antibody test for herpes simplex virus in a department of genitourinary medicine in the United Kingdom. METHOD: Retrospective analysis of case records of 127 patients who accepted the test during a 20 month period. RESULTS/CONCLUSION: The test contributed to patient management in 79% of patients with recurrent genital ulceration of unknown cause. It was also useful for counselling a number of patients with initial episodes of disease and the asymptomatic partners of some patients when the partners were shown to possess antibodies specific to herpes simplex virus type 2. When evaluating sexual partners, the test was difficult to interpret if an isolate from the index case had not been typed. Access to viral typing may therefore be a greater priority than serological testing. As adverse psychological sequelae may follow the identification of an asymptomatic chronic infection, guidelines for the use of a type specific serological test are proposed.
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