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Herpes Simplex and Varicella Zoster Viruses

Fast, Efficient, and Accurate Processing for PCR Detection


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Laboratory Diagnosis

Slide 3

December 2009

There are several laboratory testing options for HSV and VZV. A quick and simple method is the Tzanck smear, in which scrapings of cells from the base of an unroofed blister are placed on a glass slide and stained with Giemsa or papanicolaou stain. The microscopist then looks for the presence of virally- infected cells, which classically, as shown here, are multinucleated, and have glassy nuclear contents, marginalized nuclear chromatin, and nuclear molding. This presentation is diagnostic for HSV and VZV herpes viruses, but it cannot distinguish between the 2 of them.

In order to actually differentiate HSV and VZV, alternative methods such as viral culture or PCR must be used. PCR includes both conventional and real-time methods, and it is the fastest, most sensitive method for detection of both viruses. So, given these advantages, real-time PCR is the only method used at Mayo Clinic for diagnosis of HSV or VZV from anogenital and dermal specimens, which are the most common specimens that we receive for these viruses.

Laboratory Diagnosis


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