Herpes Simplex Virus (HSV) 1/2 and Varicella Zoster Virus (VZV) PCR

Indications for Testing

Molecular testing performed at the PHML for HSV-1/2 and VZV is for diagnostic purposes only to detect HSV-1/2, VZV DNA in patient specimens following wild-type infection or suspect HSV and VZV encephalitis/meningitis.


Please note that HSV-1/2 and VZV PCR is run as a duplex and as such, PCR results for all three viruses will be reported together. HSV or VZV PCR cannot be ordered as individual tests and are not performed separately.



Varicella (Chickenpox)

Herpes Zoster (Shingles)

Varicella-Zoster Virus


Human Herpes Virus Type 3 (HHV-3)



Herpes Simplex Virus Type 1

Human alphaherpes virus 1

Herpes Simplex Virus Type 2

Human alphaherpes virus 2


Reporting Name


  • CSF collected in sterile container.
  • Swab of vesicular or ulcerative lesions in non-expired universal transport medium (UTM) collected from anywhere on the skin or oral, genital or peri-anal mucosa, or corneal ulcer.

Please contact the PHML prior to collection of specimens other than CSF or swabs. HSV-1/2, VZV PCR has not been validated for other specimen sources and can be offered off-label if clinically indicated.


Minimum Specimen Volume

Minimum volume of CSF required is 250μL.

Swab should be submitted in 3mL of universal transport media.


Specimen Storage

CSF should be sent to the PHML without delay. Ideally, CSF should arrive at the lab within 1 hour of collection.

Separate tubes of CSF should be submitted for HSV-1/2, VZV PCR and culture and sensitivity (C&S). CSF must be stored at 2-8°C for PCR UNLESS culture and sensitivity (C&S) is also requested on the same tube. In which case CSF MUST be stored at room temperature.

Swabs in UTM must be stored at 2-8°C and must be delivered to the lab within 72 hours.


Rejection Criteria

  • Swab submitted in other transport media other than UTM
  • Swab submitted in expired UTM
  • Swab submitted in less than 3mL of UTM
  • Swab stored outside the required temperature
  • Prolonged transport past 72 hours for swabs.
  • CSF specimens will not be rejected. Please contact the PHML if transport of CSF is delayed, or if CSF was stored outside the required temperature.

Although CSF specimens are not rejected, CSF with absence of pleocytosis and a protein level within normal limits may not be processed until clinical history is obtained through conversation between the microbiologist on call and the ordering physician.


Specimen Retention

Specimens where HSV-1/2, VZV PCR has been performed are stored for 2 years.

Specimens where HSV-1/2, VZV PCR has not been performed due to requiring additional clinical information are stored for 2 weeks.



HSV-1/2 and VZV   PCR Result Interpretation
NOT DETECTED DNA not detected


INDETERMINATE RESULT INTERPRETATION: Specimen produced results near the cut-off (indeterminate), please submit a follow up specimen if clinically indicated.

Status Days* Turn-Around-Time (TAT)*
Routine – Weekly Tuesdays and Fridays 24h


*Please note that test schedules and TAT may change due to equipment maintenance or statutory holidays.


Please consult the microbiologist on call for approval for testing outside the routine schedule.


Method Description

Real-time Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR)


Performing Laboratory Location

This test is only performed at the Newfoundland & Labrador Public Health Microbiology Laboratory in St. John’s.


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