Healthy Living

Serum Herpes Simplex Antibodies Test: Can It Help in the Diagnosis of Cold Sores?

Serum Herpes Simplex Antibodies Test: Can It Help in the Diagnosis of Cold Sores?

Key Takeaways

  • There are two types of herpes: HSV-1 and HSV-2.
  • Herpes may appear in the different regions of the body.
  • HSV-1, also known as oral herpes, is usually the cause of cold sores.

What is the serum herpes simplex antibodies test?

This test is used to diagnose the herpes simplex virus. It is an examination of the blood and it identifies the antibodies that fight against HSV. This herpes simplex virus is the leading cause of herpes. There are two different kinds of herpes: HSV-1 and HSV-2. Herpes may appear in the different regions of the body. The mouth and genitals are the two areas most commonly affected.

HSV-1, also known as oral herpes, is usually the cause of cold sores as well as blisters on the face, particularly near the mouth. It can be spread by kissing or sharing utensils and glasses used by an infected individual. It can be transmitted even when signs and symptoms are not present. This process is known as shedding and occurs when cells that have the active virus are dropped or shed from the skin. HSV 1 can be contracted from infected bodily fluids, including semen, vaginal fluid, saliva, or herpes lesions or sores or blister fluid. Upon entering a cell, the infection often does not cause any symptom. If the virus destroys the host cell during replication, sores or blisters filled with fluid appear. Scabs form over the sores or blisters once the fluid is absorbed, then the scabs disappear without scarring.

On the other hand, HSV-2 is the one responsible for genital herpes. This type of HSV is transmitted through sexual intercourse. Both HSV-1 and HSV-2 may not always show symptoms; thus, some people are not aware that they are already infected.

This herpes antibodies test is meant to detect antibodies against the virus, which will determine if a person is fighting the virus. The test does not essentially check for the infection itself. The antibodies are proteins used by the body to defend itself against organisms such as fungi, viruses, and bacteria that are trying to invade the body. Therefore, people who have contracted HSV have the subsequent antibodies. The test can detect antibodies for HSV-1 and HSV-2 infections.

The test may be ordered by a doctor if an HSV infection is suspected. The results will show if a person has contracted the virus.

What’s the purpose of the serum herpes simplex antibodies test?

The test is usually ordered to know if a person has been infected by HSV-1 or HSV-2. Certain symptoms can suggest that a person has the herpes simplex virus. However, the virus may not always show symptoms. The following symptoms may be experienced if you have been infected by HSV.

  • Tingling or burning felt in the nose or mouth
  • Tiny, blisters near the area of the mouth that are often filled with fluid
  • Sore throat
  • Fever
  • Swollen lymph nodes of the neck
  • Tingling sensation around the reproductive organs
  • Small blisters in the genital area
  • Fever
  • Abnormal vaginal discharge
  • Painful urination
  • Headache
  • Muscle aches

What happens during a serum herpes simplex antibodies test?

During the test, a sample of blood is taken by a professional. The sample of blood will then be taken to the laboratory. There, they will test for antibodies against HSV.

  1. The area of skin from which the blood will be taken will be sanitized.
  2. To make your veins more visible and reachable, an elastic band will be wrapped around your arm. This will cause swelling of the veins. 
  3. After identifying a sensible vein to draw blood from, a needle will inserted into the vein. 
  4. The necessary amount of blood will be taken in order to perform the blood test. From the needle, the blood travels through a tiny tube and is collected in a vial.
  5. The site from which the blood was taken will likely be bandaged due to minimal bleeding.
  6. The vial of blood will be sent to a laboratory where it will be examined. 

If HSV antibodies are detected in the blood sample, a positive diagnosis will be made. 

A negative result means that a person was never infected with HSV; thus, the test result is normal. However, it is possible for a test to come up negative is a person has been recently infected within the past couple of months. If this is the case, the result is considered to be a false negative. The body usually takes 12 to 16 weeks to form antibodies after the exposure. Thus, if a person was checked with the antibody test during this time, an inaccurate negative result is achieved despite of being infected.

The body can make two different antibodies as a response to HSV. These are IgG and IgM. IgM is the antibody formed first then it is followed by the IgG. Once the IgG is formed, it will remain in the body for the rest of a person’s life.

A positive result indicates that a person has contracted either HSV-1 or HSV-2 in his or her lifetime. In addition, the result can distinguish if a person has HSV-1 or HSV-2. Treatment and prevention will then depend on the results.

Risk factors of the herpes blood test

  • Abnormal bleeding
  • Dizziness, fainting or light-headedness 
  • Bruising or a hemotoma 
  • An infection due to punctured skin from having blood taken

Bandaging the skin will help prevent an infection.  

What to consider

  • While HSV-1 and HSV-2 are usually only active from time to time, once they are in your system, the virus stays in your body for the rest of your life.
  • Even when sores are not present, the virus can be passed through bodily fluids during physical contact. To protect others:
    • Inform any person you might have sex with that you have herpes. Let the potential partner choose if he or she wants to partake in sexual activity. Use protection if the answer is yes. 
    • When sores are present, on your mouth or genital region, do not partake in any form of sex. 
    • You should not even kiss another person if there are sores present on your lips or in your mouth. 
    • Products and objects that touch your mouth, such as chapsticks, lipsticks, toothbrushes and towels should not be shared. Additionally, if you are having company, wash your dishes and utensils thoroughly if others may use them. 
    • Ask your health care provider what steps you need to take if you develop symptoms. Ask how to decrease your risk of spreading the virus to other people.