Objective: To characterise the epidemiological and clinical features of genital herpes and the diagnostic role of HSV-2 specific serology in an ethnically diverse cohort of genitourinary medicine (GUM) attendees in inner London.
Methods: Genital swabs (n = 186) were tested by real time polymerase chain reaction (PCR) and serum samples (n = 70) by HSV-2 specific enzyme linked immunoassay (ELISA).
Results: Among 186 patients (median age 29 years), 104/186 (56%) were male and 176/186 (95%) heterosexual; ethnicity was predominantly black Caribbean (76/186, 41%), white (65/186, 35%), or black-African (41/186, 22%). The most common lesion sites were penis (85/104 men, 82%) and vulva (63/82 women, 77%); 114/186 (61%) patients were diagnosed clinically with first episode disease. Women were more likely to present <5 days of onset (p = 0.008). Black Caribbean patients were more likely to present ⩾5 days (p = 0.04) and decline HIV testing (p = 0.03). By PCR, 108/186 (58%) swabs tested positive for HSV-1 (7/108, 6.5%) or HSV-2 (101/108, 93.5%). Independent predictors of a positive PCR were heterosexual group, <5 days of onset, and visible genital ulceration on examination. HSV-2 was associated with black Caribbean and black African ethnicity; HSV-1 with white ethnicity (p = 0.006). By HSV-2 specific serology, 16/42 (38%) first episodes caused by HSV-2 were recurrent infections, and 7/19 (37%) patients with recurrent genital disease but negative PCR had genital herpes.
Conclusions: Epidemiological trends in genital HSV-1 and HSV-2 infection appear to vary between ethnic groups in the United Kingdom. HSV-2 specific serology improves diagnostic accuracy in GUM populations where most genital infections are caused by HSV-2.
- GUM, genitourinary medicine
- ELISA, enzyme linked immunoassay
- HSV, herpes simplex virus
- PCR, polymerase chain reaction
- genitourinary medicine clinics
- herpes simplex virus
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