Blood tests for herpes are the most reliable way to detect the virus. There are a number of other ways to diagnose the condition. Some give more certainty than others.

You should make sure your health care professional is aware of all the various methods and that they have kept themselves apprised of the latest research information so as to best advise you.

Accurate testing is important for genital herpes as with any condition. Being diagnosed by symptoms alone leaves room for doubt and can only result in feelings of uncertainty.

Under some circumstances, this can be more detrimental than the condition itself.


There are dozens of skin conditions that can easily be confused with HSV thereby making this method less than 100% conclusive.

Of course previous history, reoccurrence of the same symptom etc. will add to the diagnosis however a more conclusive result is obtained by using one of the other tests for herpes in addition.


A common laboratory test in which a small sample of possibly infected tissue or fluid is collected by swab or other means. This sample is then placed in a container along with cells in which a virus can grow.

If a virus grows in the culture, cellular changes can be observed under a microscope. This process can then identify the virus causing an infection.

Adding a fluorescent dye to the sample carries out another type of culture test. If antibodies are present in the sample (Antibodies are proteins produced by the body's immune system in response to an infection) they adhere to the dye and glow when viewed under a special microscope.

This test for herpes requires the swab or sample to be obtained when there is actual viral shedding occurring. This can best be obtained from the lesions themselves, so for this test you normally would have to attend the collection lab when an active outbreak is present.

The viral culture-testing lab should be able to identify between the HSV1 and HSV2 strain using this test, although this must sometimes be requested, as it may not be the normal procedure.

These tests may give a false-negative result if the virus is not present at the time the swab is taken, or if it's not the first time you've had symptoms.

A positive result from this type of tests has a very high degree of accuracy.


PCR testing also requires the presence of active viral shedding.

The PCR (polymerase chain reaction) test searches for pieces of the virus' DNA. It's an accurate test, but there is some conjecture as to how it should be used to diagnose genital herpes.

Detection of HSV DNA by PCR should not be used as the sole indicator of infection, a diagnosis of infection should use all available clinical and laboratory data.


When a virus enters a body by whatever means the body immediately begins its defense by manufacturing a tailor made protein, called an antibody to resist the virus.

The antibodies may not detectable until 6 to 8 weeks after someone has become infected.

The herpes blood test looks for these antibodies present in the blood sample. So unlike the previous methods it is not necessary for an active outbreak to be present to achieve an accurate diagnosis.

This is helpful in the case of someone who has no symptoms but may have had intimate contact with a herpes sufferer.

There are many circumstance that warrant blood testing and there are several types of testing that either identify the specific virus type (HSV1 - HSV2) or not.

The individual or partners, in conjunction with their health care professional, should order the test/s that will provide the needed information relative to their situation and symptoms.

They can then use the results obtained to decide on the best way to conduct their sexual activity for a safer and happier relationship.

The Western Blot, the most accurate of these blood tests for herpes, is done at the University of Washington. or contact Community Services at (206) 598-6066.