Objectives: To determine the seroprevalence of herpes simplex virus type 2 (HSV-2) antibodies and the relation between the history of clinical herpes and the presence of type-specific HSV-2 antibodies in three different populations from the city of Campinas City, Brazil.
Population and methods: One hundred and one college students, 96 patients with sexually transmitted diseases (STD), and 102 women at delivery were interviewed and blood samples were collected. Total HSV (HSV-1 and HSV-2) antibodies were screened by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) and type-specific HSV-2 antibodies were detected by Western blot assay.
Results: Herpes simplex virus antibodies were detected in 66.3% of the students, 97.1% of the women at delivery, and 99.0% of the STD patients. Type-specific HSV-2 antibodies were detected in 6.9% of the students, 22.6% of the women at delivery, and in 53.1% of the STD patients. History of genital herpes was reported by none of the students, by one of the women at delivery, and by 11 of 51 (21.6%) STD patients who were HSV-2 seropositive. Four of the 45 (8.9%) seronegative STD patients reported a history of genital herpes.
Conclusion: The prevalence of HSV-2 infection in Campinas City can be significantly affected by the characteristics of the population studied, as was shown in previous studies. The sensitivity of the history of genital herpes was low in the present series, stressing that prophylactic measures for vertical and horizontal transmission of HSV-2 should not be based only on a positive history of genital ulcers.