Skip navigation

Herpes viral culture of lesion

Herpes viral culture of a lesion is a laboratory test to check if a skin sore is infected with the herpes simplex virus.

How the Test is Performed

The health care provider  collects the sample from a skin sore (lesion). The sample is  sent to a lab. There, it is placed in a special dish (culture). It is then watched to see if the herpes simplex virus or substances related to the virus grow. Special tests may also be done to determine whether it is herpes simplex virus type 1 or 2.

How to Prepare for the Test

The sample must be collected during the acute phase of infection. This is the worst part of an outbreak. It is also when the skin lesions are at their worst.

How the Test will Feel

When the sample is collected, you may feel an uncomfortable scraping or sticky sensation. Sometimes a sample from the throat or eyes is needed. This involves rubbing a sterile swab against the eye or in the throat.

Why the Test is Performed

The test is done to confirm herpes simplex infection. The herpes virus causes genital herpes. Or it can cause cold sores of the mouth and lips.

The diagnosis is often made by physical examination (the health care provider looking at the sores). The cultures and other tests are used to confirm the diagnosis.

This test is most likely accurate when a person is newly infected, that is, during the first outbreak.

Normal Results

A normal (negative) result means that the herpes simplex virus did not grow in the laboratory dish and the skin sample used in the test did not contain any herpes virus.

Be aware that a normal (negative) culture does not always mean that you do not have a herpes infection or have not had one in the past.

What Abnormal Results Mean

An abnormal (positive) result may mean that you have an active infection with herpes simplex virus. Herpes infections include herpes genitalis, which is genital herpes, or cold sores on the lips or in the mouth.

If the culture is positive for herpes, you may have recently become infected. Or you may have become infected in the past and are currently having an outbreak.

Risks

Risks include slight bleeding or infection in the area where the skin sample was removed.

Alternative Names

Culture - herpes simplex virus; Herpes simplex virus culture

References

Costello M, Sabatini LM, Yungbluth M. Viral infections. In: McPherson RA, Pincus MR, eds. Henry's Clinical Diagnosis and Management by Laboratory Methods. 22nd ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2011:chap 55.

Update Date: 9/30/2013

Updated by: Susan Storck, MD, FACOG, Chief, Eastside Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Group Health Cooperative of Puget Sound, Bellevue, Washington; Clinical Teaching Faculty, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Bethanne Black, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

A.D.A.M Quality Logo

A.D.A.M., Inc. is accredited by URAC, also known as the American Accreditation HealthCare Commission (www.urac.org). URAC's accreditation program is an independent audit to verify that A.D.A.M. follows rigorous standards of quality and accountability. A.D.A.M. is among the first to achieve this important distinction for online health information and services. Learn more about A.D.A.M.'s editorial policy, editorial process and privacy policy. A.D.A.M. is also a founding member of Hi-Ethics and subscribes to the principles of the Health on the Net Foundation (www.hon.ch).

The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed physician should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. Copyright 1997-2014, A.D.A.M., Inc. Duplication for commercial use must be authorized in writing by ADAM Health Solutions.

A.D.A.M Logo