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J Infect Dis. 2011 Sep 15;204(6):820-4. doi: 10.1093/infdis/jir425.

Persistence of varicella zoster virus DNA in saliva after herpes zoster.

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Departments of Neurology, University of Colorado School of Medicine, Aurora, CO, USA.


Analysis of saliva samples from individuals aged ≥ 60 years who had a history of zoster (group 1), zoster and postherpetic neuralgia (PHN; group 2), or no history of zoster (group 3) revealed varicella zoster virus (VZV) DNA in saliva samples from 11 of 17 individuals in group 1, 10 of 15 individuals in group 2, and 2 of 17 individuals in group 3. The frequency of VZV DNA detection was significantly higher (P = .001) in saliva of subjects with a history of zoster, with or without PHN (21 [67%] of 32 subjects in groups 1 and 2), than in saliva of age-matched subjects with no zoster history (2 [12%] of 17 subjects in group 3). Thus, persistence of VZV DNA in saliva is the outcome of zoster, independent of PHN. Because VZV infection can produce neurological and ocular disease without zoster rash, future studies are needed to establish whether VZV DNA can be detected in the saliva of such patients.

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