Clinical Spectrum and Laboratory Characteristics Associated With Detection of Herpes Simplex Virus DNA in Cerebrospinal Fluid

Cathal E. O'Sullivan, Allen Jr. Aksamit, Jeffrey R. Harrington, W. Scott Harmsen, P. Shawn Mitchell, Robin Patel

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Objective: To determine the clinical, neurologic, and laboratory characteristics of patients with herpes simplex virus (HSV) type 1 (HSV-1) or HSV type 2 (HSV-2) DNA detected in cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) with use of polymerase chain reaction. Patients and Methods: Clinical, laboratory, and demographic data were determined from 249 CSF specimens (collected from 247 patients >10 years of age) that tested positive for HSV-1 or HSV-2 DNA at the Mayo Clinic from January 1999 to August 2000. Results: The median age of the 200 patients whose age was available was 70 years vs 40 years for those with HSV-1 or HSV-2 DNA in CSF, respectively. Detailed data were available for 39 and 78 patients with positive polymerase chain reaction results for HSV-1 and HSV-2, respectively. Of those with HSV-1 DNA detected in CSF, 89% had encephalitis, whereas most patients with HSV-2 DNA detected in CSF had findings compatible with meningitis. Only 5 (7%) of 69 patients in whom HSV-2 was detected in CSF had genital lesions at presentation, and none of the assessable patients with HSV-2 who had recurrent meningitis had active genital lesions at presentation. Conclusion: The vast majority (82%) of patients with HSV-2 detected in CSF had no history of genital herpes and no lesions at the time of presentation. Polymerase chain reaction assays designed to detect HSV in CSF should detect HSV-1 and HSV-2 and differentiate between HSV-1 and HSV-2.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1347-1352
Number of pages6
JournalMayo Clinic Proceedings
Issue number11
StatePublished - 2003


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)

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