Why we need improved herpes diagnostics
The blood tests that are frequently used to help diagnose the herpes virus have found to be unreliable and provide inconsistent results, according to a paper printed in Sexually Transmitted Diseases.
The herpes virus comes in two types. The first, and most common strain, is HSV-1. This is the strain of herpes that is symptomatically shows through lesions on the mouth. The second, is often found on the genital area. However, both strains can manifest in either location of the body. This makes it arduous to detect what strain of herpes you may be effected by.
There is a high chance that if you have herpes you will be asymptomatic. A high percentage of people show little or no signs of the virus and live their life without knowing if they are effected.
Why Aren’t Tests Reliable?
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have publicly stated that the blood tests used for herpes diagnosis are not always reliable. This is due to the high amount of false negative testing. Because the numbers of the false negative is so high, they suggest not to test for herpes via blood test.
The blood tests used to detect herpes are in search for igM antibodies. If a value more than 1.1 is detected than you are considered to be “positive.” However, there has been consistent debate within the medical community that values under 3.5 are a “low positive”. If a low positive level is recorded, medical professionals suggest a a HSV Western Blot Test. Within the medical industry, the HSV Western Blot test is the most accurate and reliable test when it comes to herpes detection.
The University of Washington in Seattle and the Westover Heights Clinic in Portland found that those who test low positive for HSV-2 using basic blood testing were likely to test negative after a Western Blot test. Those affected with HSV-1 saw differently. When tested with a standard blood test, HSV-1 antibodies were not detected, but later showed up in the Western Blot test.
According to this study, if you show no or little symptoms of genital herpes, but showed a low positive by a immunoassay antibody test, there is a 50% chance that the original test was false.
In addition, IgM testing is unreliable due to the time of production. Your body needs time to produce these antibodies before they become detectable. It can take up to six months from infection in order for your body to develop a significant amount.
Making sure that your doctor is in the know about your health and the testing available is paramount to your health. In order for a doctor to be accurate in their diagnosis, all information must be known.
When it comes to a herpes diagnosis, one must cultivate patience. Due to the nature of the testing and the development of the infection in general, figuring out your herpes can take some time.
If you are struggling with your sexual health, taking proactive steps to get you healthy are essential. Dr. Elist is sexual health expert based in Los Angeles. His expertise has helped metamorphose the health and sex lives of thousands of men worldwide.