Center for Human Genetics and Laboratory Diagnostics, Dr. Klein, Dr. Rost and Colleagues

Herpes Simplex Virus Types I and 2 (HSV)

Dr. med. Hartmut Campe, Dr. med. Hanns-Georg Klein

Scientific Background

Herpes simplex virus (HSV) types 1 and 2 are DNA viruses, which like Varicella Zoster virus, Cytomegalovirus and Epstein-Barr virus belong to the herpes virus family. Primary infection with HSV is clinically unremarkable in >90% of cases. The clinical presentation of gingivostomatitis is characterized by fever and ulceration/inflammation of the oral mucosa. Reactivation of the virus leads to cold sores or lip blisters (herpes labialis).

HSV type 2 reactivation especially, although not exclusively, can cause painful inflammation and ulceration of the skin and mucous membranes in the genital area (herpes genitalis). The prevalence of HSV worldwide is very high (approximately 90%). The virus persists lifelong in nerve tissue.

Rare serious complications accompanying HSV infection: herpes encephalitis, neonatal HSV following perinatal infection of the child and herpes pneumonia after organ transplant, can be life threatening and require immediate diagnosis and treatment.