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Obstet Gynecol. 2005 Aug;106(2):268-74.

Poor correlation between genital lesions and detection of herpes simplex virus in women in labor.

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Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington 98195-6460, USA.

Erratum in

  • Obstet Gynecol. 2005 Oct;106(4):869.



To estimate the accuracy of clinical diagnosis of genital herpes for herpes simplex virus (HSV) detection among women in labor.


Viral detection by culture and HSV DNA polymerase chain reaction (PCR) among women who underwent cesarean delivery for genital herpes was compared with women without HSV symptoms in labor who had genital swabs collected for HSV culture and to a subset of these women who had genital specimens available for PCR analysis, regardless of culture results.


From 1989 to 1999, 126 of 19,568 (0.6%) women underwent cesarean delivery for HSV. Twenty-six percent of 110 of these women had HSV detected by culture from at least 1 genital specimen and 46% of 70 of these women had HSV detected by PCR. During the same period, 61 of 12,623 (0.5%) asymptomatic women had HSV detected by culture. Between 1995 and 1996, 57 of 2,109 (2.7%) asymptomatic women had HSV detected by PCR. Thus, the presence of genital lesions had a sensitivity for HSV detection of 37% by culture and 41% by PCR. The amount of HSV present in asymptomatic women with HSV detected in genital secretions by PCR was often as high as those with genital lesions, although the median amount of HSV DNA detected was greater in women with lesions.


Clinical diagnosis of genital herpes at the time of labor correlates relatively poorly with HSV detection from genital sites or lesions by culture or PCR and fails to identify asymptomatic women who have HSV in their genital secretions at the time of labor.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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