Herpes False Positives: The Accuracy Of Herpes Tests
Worried you have been handed a herpes false positive? Is there a small chance of being handed a false positive herpes test result or are these supposedly fail-safe tests always accurate? If recent test results confirm you are carrying the herpes simplex virus, you may need to be reassured that the current herpes blood tests are reliable.
Quick Answers For Clinicians
Virologic and serologic testing methods are available to confirm herpes simplex virus infection. Direct detection of the virus by polymerase chain reaction or viral culture is recommended for neonates and patients who have an active infection with lesions, to test for disseminated bloodborne infection in immunocompromised patients, and for cerebrospinal fluid testing. Serologic testing for immunoglobulin G can be used to determine if a person has ever been exposed to HSV but cannot determine exactly when the exposure occurred or the site of infection. Type-specific serologic testing for HSV-1- and HSV-2-specific glycoproteins can determine the subtype of the virus, which provides useful information about prognosis and informs treatment and counseling.
Genital herpes is most often caused by herpes simplex virus type 2 , but HSV-1-associated cases are increasing. Recurrence and subclinical viral shedding occur more frequently in cases caused by HSV-2 than in cases caused by HSV-1, which may impact treatment and counseling decisions. Therefore, subtyping HSV using polymerase chain reaction or serology testing can guide treatment decisions and patient counseling. Subtyping may also provide epidemiologic information about transmission of the virus.
Who Orders My Blood Tests
Your doctor typically orders blood tests for you during a physical, checkup, or an appointment intended to screen for a specific condition.
Its possible to order your own blood tests without a doctor through laboratories like LabCorp and Quest Diagnostics, but health insurance may not cover these tests.
While such blood tests may more accessible and convenient, it may be harder to interpret the results without a medical professional.
Some blood testing facilities may also not give you accurate results.
One infamous case of this is Theranos. The California biotechnology firm shut down in 2018 when an investigation uncovered lies and fraud around the accuracy of its private blood-testing technology.
Currently, litigation is underway against the founder and chief executive of the company, Elizabeth Holmes.
You May Like: How To Prevent The Spread Of Genital Herpes
What Does The Test Result Mean
Direct detection of the virus
- A positive HSV DNA test or culture indicates that you have an active herpes infection, and the result may indicate if it is HSV-1 or HSV-2.
- A negative PCR test or culture indicates that the herpes simplex virus was not detected, but this does not definitely rule out an infection. False negatives can occur if there is not enough active virus in the sample. This may happen if the lesion is cultured more than 48 hours after the symptoms appear. If suspicion of herpes remains high, repeat testing may be done.
Antibody blood tests
- A positive HSV-1 or HSV-2 IgG antibody test means antibodies are present in your blood, which means you have had an infection in the past even if you haven’t noticed any symptoms. The type of antibody detected indicates the type of HSV infection.
- Negative HSV antibody results mean that it is unlikely that you have been exposed to HSV or it may mean that your body has not had time to begin producing HSV antibodies.
Is There Anything Else I Need To Know About An Hsv Test
The best way to prevent genital herpes or another STD is to not have sex. If you are sexually active, you can reduce your risk of infection by
- Being in a long-term relationship with one partner who has tested negative for STDs
- Using condoms correctly every time you have sex
If you’ve been diagnosed with genital herpes, condom use can reduce your risk of spreading the infection to others.
Don’t Miss: Does Oral Herpes Go Away On Its Own
The Accuracy Of Herpes Blood Tests
As you can see, the accuracy of herpes tests depends on several factors. Certain blood tests are more conclusive than others and as mentioned above, some tests wont tell you which type of herpes you have.
Its possible to get a false positive herpes test result, and that can depend on several confusing factors. One is the duration between contracting the virus and taking the test: the amount of antibodies changes and can impact the test results.
- For best results if you think youve been exposed, the CDC suggests waiting 4-6 weeks from contact to get the blood test.
Its also interesting to note that a high percentage of the population is infected with HSV-1, which can be transmitted orally or genitally. That brings up a lot of questions for some people as to whether knowing about it via blood test is even useful. For example, it wont tell you much about where the virus is located without symptoms.
How Do You Treat Herpes Type 1
Unfortunately, there is no cure for herpes and the infection is life-long. However, outbreaks usually taper off the longer an individual carries the virus and outbreaks can stop occurring entirely. Antiviral medication can help manage symptoms by reducing the length and severity of outbreaks. Since risk of transmission is higher when there is an active outbreak, knowing your status and receiving medication can help reduce the risk of giving your partner herpes.
Also Check: How To Stop Genital Herpes From Spreading
What Happens During An Hsv Test
HSV testing is usually done as a swab test, blood test, or lumbar puncture. The type of test you get will depend on your symptoms and health history.
- For a swab test, a health care provider will use a swab to collect fluid and cells from a herpes sore.
- For a blood test, a health care professional will take a blood sample from a vein in your arm, using a small needle. After the needle is inserted, a small amount of blood will be collected into a test tube or vial. You may feel a little sting when the needle goes in or out. This usually takes less than five minutes.
- A lumbar puncture, also called a spinal tap, is only done if your provider thinks you may have an infection of the brain or spinal cord. During a spinal tap:
- You will lie on your side or sit on an exam table.
- A health care provider will clean your back and inject an anesthetic into your skin, so you won’t feel pain during the procedure. Your provider may put a numbing cream on your back before this injection.
- Once the area on your back is completely numb, your provider will insert a thin, hollow needle between two vertebrae in your lower spine. Vertebrae are the small backbones that make up your spine.
- Your provider will withdraw a small amount of cerebrospinal fluid for testing. This will take about five minutes.
- Your provider may ask you to lie on your back for an hour or two after the procedure. This may prevent you from getting a headache afterward.
The Bottom Line: Tests For Herpes Are More Worry Than They’re Worth
If you do have symptoms, don’t fret: If you know your status, you’re at an advantage in that you can talk with your doctor and find an antiviral drug that works for you. Medication can curtail the severity of your symptoms, as well as the number of outbreaks you get. Additionally, taking an antiviral daily will greatly reduce your chances of transmitting the virus to someone else. In case you missed it, there’s also a very promising new drug for herpes on the horizon, which researchers say could be the most effective one yet.
Take it straight from the pros and don’t put yourself through the stress of a herpes blood test if you don’t need to. And, whether you have symptoms or not, know that you’re not alone if you are herpes-positive.
Read more stories on herpes facts and myths:
Recommended Reading: Can You Put Vaseline On Herpes
How Can Herpes Be Tested/checked
Better2Know has three ways of testing for the Herpes virus:
- Blood Test if you have no symptoms
- Urine Test if you currently have symptoms
- Swab Test if you have a blister or other lesion for swabbing to see if it is caused by HSV.
At Better2Know, you can choose your test method: urine or a swab if you have symptoms, and blood if you do not. Results are available within 25 working days from us receiving your sample depending on which sample is taken. The test will tell you whether you have HSV-1, HSV-2, both types or neither.
At selected private sexual health clinics, Better2Know also provides instant Herpes testing. With this exclusive, popular Herpes testing option, you will receive your results from 10 minutes after sample collection.
You can also get a Home Sample Collection Kit by visiting our Home STI Tests page.
Who Decides Which Diseases Are Notifiable And Why
The Council of State and Territorial Epidemiologists works with CDC to determine if a particular disease should be nationally notifiable. To make this decision, they follow a number of public health principles, for example, whether or not it is treatable whether or not it is preventable how common it is whether or not a public health response is needed whether or not there is a good source of information on the number of cases and whether or not it represents a significant public health threat . Information on HSV-1 and HSV-2 infections already exists in NHANES, so herpes infections have not been classified as notifiable diseases.
Recommended Reading: Do Normal Std Tests Check For Herpes
Can Blood Test Detect Herpes
Both HSV-1 and HSV-2 can cause unmistakable skin injuries. Since such sores can likewise be the aftereffect of different diseases, it is extremely vital that you see a specialist, particularly on the off chance that youve never had an episode. Once youve had herpes, you can figure out how to perceive the injuries in the event that you encounter repeats. Be that as it may, in the event that you have more regrettable repeats or if the injuries appear to be unique than regular, at that point you should see a specialist.
Herpes flare-ups normally show up as at least one rankles in bunches. The rankles may tear open to end up wounds. Mouth blisters are typically caused by HSV 1, and genital herpes diseases are generally caused by HSV 2. Be that as it may, either infection can contaminate either area.
It is conceivable to screen for asymptomatic herpes contamination utilizing a blood test. Herpes blood tests search for antibodies to the herpes virus.
You frame antibodies when you have to battle a disease, and antibodies can keep going for a considerable length of time or even a lifetime. For the most part, it takes around one to about fourteen days for your body to deliver perceptible antibodies against herpes infection disease. The nearness of antibodies is proof that your body has stood up to a contamination, either as of late or previously.
Are Test Results Accurate
Tests that identify evidence of HSV infections are routine and commonly used medical tests. The ability of a test to accurately diagnose or rule out HSV infection depends on the test used for analysis and the stage of a patients infection.
The Tzanck smear and viral culture are less able to accurately identify patients who have an HSV infection than other tests. PCR testing and antibody testing are more sensitive, which means that they miss fewer cases of infection.
Blood tests that detect antibodies to HSV can distinguish between HSV-1 and HSV-2 but not the site of infection. This means that blood tests cannot tell whether a patient has a genital or oral herpes infection.
Although these tests are valuable for identifying HSV infection, no test is perfect. When learning of test results, patients should talk to their doctor about the type of test conducted, the reliability of test results, and if additional tests are necessary to confirm or rule out a diagnosis.
Read Also: How To Know If I Have Herpes Or Not
Blood Test For Hsv: Igg & Igm
Blood test for HSV can determine the presentenceand type of HSV. A herpes IgG test is a blood test to see if youve beeninfected by herpes. Your doctor will take a blood sample and then send it to alab for analysis. A herpes blood test can be used in someone who doesnt havesores or whose sores are too old for testing.
Requesting A Genital Herpes Virus Test
Visit a physician and ask for a type-specific blood test. There are many herpes testing options but you are unlikely to have a false positive herpes test if you undergo one of the latest type-specific serological tests. A serological test for HSV can determine the difference between HSV-1 and HSV-2.
Anyone who fears they have received a herpes false positive test result may be exploring various other herpes testing options. Many experts agree that the molecular tests are best for diagnosing genital infections caused by the herpes simplex virus. Culture tests fail to detect the virus in many patients whereas the molecular test appears to confirm and clearly identify whether the person has HSV-1 or HSV-2.
Naturally, anyone who has been diagnosed with HSV will be concerned. If you feel that you have been handed a false positive herpes test result, you should discuss taking another test with your physician.
You May Like: How Do They Check For Herpes
Herpes Simplex Virus 1 & 2 Dna Pcr
This test is used to detect the presence of HSV DNA in the blood as soon as 28 days from exposure and determines which type is present in the positive samples. This is a qualitative PCR test that will provide a positive or negative result . PCR testing of blood is clinically useful in potential cases of disseminated HSV infection where it is suspected that the virus has spread to other parts of the body other than oral or genital.
A free physician consultation is included with this test if the results are positive. It will be up to the physician’s discretion if a prescription will be provided.
Test results may take 3-5 business days.
It’s Not Always Clear What To Do With Herpes Test Results
Jeanne Marrazzo, MD, an STI specialist at the University of Washington Medical School, believes that the problem with herpes testing isn’t the tests themselves. “Its under debate whether herpes testing is cost-effective and really going to improve people’s psychosocial health,” Dr. Marrazzo tells Health. “If it’s positive, it may be difficult to figure out where you got it. If you’ve never had symptoms, there’s the question of whether or not you go on suppressive therapy.”
Recommended Reading: How Can You Pass Herpes To Your Partner
The Accuracy Of Various Herpes Tests
This table summarizes the overall accuracy of different herpes tests. Please especially pay attention to the most common test, the IgG testâand most importantly to its false positive and false negative rates.
The table has three columns:
- Test accuracy: how accurate is the test in detecting the herpes virus
- False positive: the test detects the presence of herpes, but the person doesnât actually have it
- False negative: the test doesnât detect the presence of herpes, but the person does have it
Please note: the numbers in the table are averages and may vary from case to case based on factors such as when the test is performed , the testing technique, and the herpes viral load.
|Depends on the time of sample collection: usually 25% but may be up to 70%
|Commercially available IgG test: 94%Washington University test: > 99%
|Commercially available IgG test: up to 19%Washington University test*: 0%
|Commercially available IgG test: up to 38%Washington University test*: 0%
* The Washington University test is considered the âgold standardâ blood test. The false-negative and false-positive rates for the commercially available IgG test are based on a comparison to the Western blot results of the Washington University test.
How To Avoid Herpes Infection
Condoms cut the risk of getting or passing on herpes if they cover the affected area.
Other types of contraception, such as the contraceptive pill, offer no protection against sexually transmitted infections .
Wash your hands after touching blisters, especially before handling contact lenses because herpes can cause an eye infection.
Avoid things that trigger herpes outbreaks such as a lack of sleep, sunbathing or stress.
Having herpes could make it easier for someone to get or pass on HIV. But if HIV drugs have made your viral load undetectable then you cannot pass on HIV.
Also Check: How Can You Get Rid Of Herpes In Mouth
There Are Two Common Blood Tests Used To Identify Herpes And They’re Often Misleading
“I had a patient once who underwent this test, which was positive, and was told she has herpes, which to her was devastating and life-altering,” Friedman says. “She burst into tears when I explained the significance or lack thereof with this test, which is very misleading.” There are two common blood tests used to identify herpes: IgG and IgM. The IgM test is still used by some doctors even though it has been denounced by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention . According to the American Sexual Health Association , IgM tests can lead to deceptive results, as well as false assumptions about how and when a person acquired HSV.
And that’s not all: IgM tests fail to accurately distinguish between HSV-1 and HSV-2 antibodies, leading them to provide false-positive results for HSV-2. In other words, if you’ve been exposed to oral herpes , results of the IgM test could lead you to believe you’re positive for genital herpes, when in fact you simply have antibodies against HSV-1.
IgG tests, on the other hand, are more accurate, but aren’t without their own issues. For instance, ASHA says that while an IgG test can distinguish between HSV-1 and HSV-2, the problem is that the time it takes for IgG antibodies to reach a detectable level varies from person to person. This means that even with accurate results, someone could get a false-negative if they have the test administered too soon after contracting the virus .