Diagnosing Herpetic Genital Ulcers in a Resource-Limited Setting- What Works?

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Vyoma Singh
Sumathi Muralidhar
Lalit Dar
Naveen Kundu
V. Ramesh


Aims: Globally, viral agents, especially herpes simplex virus (HSV), have overtaken the bacterial causes of genital ulcers. Very few laboratories in India, perform culture techniques and polymerase chain reaction (PCR) for diagnosis of genital ulcers. This study aimed to establish the utility of existing tests, which are cheaper and need less technical expertise, when compared to newer tests such as PCR.

Study Design: This cross sectional study was carried out to determine the aetiology of genital ulcers, with emphasis on diagnosis of herpetic ulcers, using newer and more accurate methods of diagnosis and evaluating their performance by comparing against viral culture as gold standard test.

Place and Duration of the Study: The study was carried out over a period of one year in the Apex Regional Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STD) Centre at Safdarjung Hospital, New Delhi and the Department of Microbiology, AIIMS, New Delhi.

Methodology: Fifty three patients with genital ulcers were included in the study. Specimens from ulcers were taken for various tests, including Giemsa stain, ELISA for HSV-1 & 2, PCR and Viral culture for HSV.

Results: HSV was identified in 31 of 53 cases (58.5%), including 03 cases of HSV-1, and 28 cases of HSV-2. Sensitivity and specificity of PCR was 90.0% and 84.85%, respectively. Viral culture positivity was 37.7%.

Conclusion: Genital herpes is associated with an increased risk of Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) acquisition, and clinical manifestations are diverse; hence a presumptive diagnosis should be confirmed by reliable laboratory tests. Nucleic acid amplification tests (NAAT) are the most sensitive methods for direct detection of HSV. The extensive validation of these tests allows for their application in routine laboratory settings with consistency and greater diagnostic accuracy. When standardised and used, PCR is a highly reproducible, rapid and labour efficient method for HSV detection.

Genital ulcer, herpetic genital ulcer, herpes simplex virus, syndromic diagnosis, genital ulcer disease.

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How to Cite
Singh, V., Muralidhar, S., Dar, L., Kundu, N., & Ramesh, V. (2020). Diagnosing Herpetic Genital Ulcers in a Resource-Limited Setting- What Works?. International STD Research & Reviews, 9(1), 58-67. https://doi.org/10.9734/ISRR/2020/v9i130107
Original Research Article


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