Culture - herpes simplex virus; Herpes simplex virus culture
Herpes viral culture of a lesion is a laboratory test to check if a skin sample is infected with the herpes simplex virus.
A sample from a skin lesion (often a genital sore) or blister is needed. The health care provider will collect the sample during an active outbreak and place it in a laboratory container. The sample must include cells, not just fluid from the blister, because the virus is in the skin cells of the blister or ulcer.
At the laboratory, the sample is placed in a special dish and watched for the growth of the herpes simplex virus, or substances related to the virus. Special tests may also be done to determine whether it is herpex simplex virus type 1 or 2.
Results are available within 16 hours to 7 days (usually 2-4 days), depending on the laboratory method used.
The sample must be collected during the worst part of an outbreak. This is considered the acute phase of infection.
When the sample is collected, you may feel an uncomfortable scraping or sticky sensation. Sometimes a sample from the throat or eyes is needed. This involves rubbing a sterile swab against the eye or in the throat.
The test is done to confirm herpes simplex infection. The diagnosis is often made by physical examination (the health care provider looking at the sores), and the cultures and other tests are used to confirm that diagnosis.
Gupta R, Warren T, Wald A. Genital herpes. Lancet. 2007; 370(9605):2127-37.
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