OBJECTIVES: To investigate the current use of diagnostic methods for genital herpes simplex virus (HSV) infection, to determine how information from these tests influences clinical practice, and to identify areas for future guideline development within genitourinary medicine (GUM) clinics in the United Kingdom. METHODS: National survey of 173 consultants in UK GUM clinics. RESULTS: Completed questionnaires were returned by 146 (84%) consultants. Cell culture was the first line diagnostic method for 133 (91%) respondents, the remaining 13 (9%) used antigen detection tests. Typing of isolates (HSV-1 or HSV-2) was available in their local laboratory to 109 (75%) clinicians; however, less than two thirds routinely pass this information on to their patients. Although 74 (51%) respondents had access to serological diagnosis, the majority of methods described were non-specific; only three (2%) had access to type specific tests. Only 81 (56%) respondents frequently (> 90% of the time) recommend notification of recent sexual partners of genital herpes patients. CONCLUSIONS: While access to culture based diagnosis is widespread, type specific serology has limited availability. Information on typing of isolates as HSV-1 or 2, although available in three quarters of centres, is underutilized in counselling patients. As HSV type influences both clinical and subclinical reactivation rates and may also affect probability of transmission, this is an important omission. Future guidelines need to address the optimal use of viral typing and new diagnostic tests to optimise health gain; there is also a need for evidence based recommendations about partner notification in genital herpes.
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