Oral Herpes Testing

Oral herpes testing is done to detect the presence of the herpes simplex virus-1. A person who suspects of having an oral herpes infection can consult a doctor for diagnosis. A physical examination is conducted by a doctor especially if the symptoms are still present. A prediagnosis can also be done by a doctor although the sores or blisters have already healed. In this case, the patient needs to describe his or her experience when the symptoms came out. Once this is done, an oral herpes test is conducted by the doctor to verify the presence of the oral herpes virus.

oral herpes testingThe most common tests taken to detect oral herpes virus are:

  • Polymerase chain reaction (PCR): A polymerase chain reaction test is done by taking a sample of fluid from the sore of a patient. The sample is then tested for possible presence of the herpes simplex virus.
  • Viral culture analysis: This analysis is performed through a swab test in the affected area. The sample is placed in a culture cup which allows the virus to multiply. This test is a very specific and sensitive test especially if the sample is adequate. However, the disadvantage of using this test is the possibility of getting a false-negative result. This happens when the virus is not detected but is actually present.
  • Tzanck smear: This test is also called the herpes skin test which is done by scraping a fluid sample from the sores. It is then tested for the presence of the Tzanck cells (giant cells) which are found in the herpes simplex virus.
  • Antibody test: An antibody test is usually done when a person suspects of having oral herpes but do not see any symptoms. It is done by taking a blood sample from the patient. The antibody test does not detect for the presence of HSV-1 but instead identifies for antibodies produced by the immune system which fight back the herpes simplex virus. Since antibodies take time to be produced, an antibody test is not recommended for patients who have just been infected.
  • Herpes antigen detection test: This test is not frequently done but is similar to that of a viral culture analysis. It also takes a sample from the affected area but does not wait for the virus to multiply. Instead, it detects for the antigens that are present.