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J Clin Virol. 2010 Sep;49(1):58-60. doi: 10.1016/j.jcv.2010.06.006.

Direct immunofluorescence assay compared to cell culture for the diagnosis of mucocutaneous herpes simplex virus infections in children.

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Section of Pediatric Emergency Medicine, Baylor College of Medicine, 1102 Bates Avenue, Suite 1850, Houston, TX 77030, United States.



Direct immunofluorescence assay (DFA) is commonly used for the rapid identification of herpes simplex virus (HSV) infection in mucocutaneous lesions, yet little is known about its diagnostic accuracy.


To determine the diagnostic yield and accuracy of HSV DFA for the diagnosis of mucocutaneous HSV infection in pediatric patients.


Retrospective cross-sectional study of all patients who underwent HSV DFA testing by the Texas Children's Hospital Diagnostic Virology between January 1, 1995 and December 31, 2005. HSV DFA sensitivity, specificity, positive likelihood ratio (LRs), and negative LRs were estimated using viral culture as the reference standard.


659 specimens were submitted for HSV DFA with concurrent viral cultures. Viral cultures were positive for HSV type 1 in 158 (24%) and HSV type 2 in 2 (0.3%). There were 433 different patients with a median age of 8.6 years. Types of lesions were as follows: 50% ulcerative, 26% vesicular, 8% erythema or purpura, 5% pustular, and 11% missing. Of the 659 specimens submitted for HSV DFA, 160 (24%) were inconclusive due to inadequate cells. Of the 499 adequate specimens, overall HSV DFA test accuracy was: sensitivity 61%, specificity 99%, LR positive 40, and LR negative 0.39.


A quarter of specimens submitted for HSV DFA testing are not adequate for DFA testing. When HSV DFA can be performed, it is specific, but not sensitive, for the identification of mucocutaneous HSV infection in children.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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