Herpes simplex type 2 (HSV-2) seroprevalence within a community is determined by sexual and perinatal transmission from mother to baby, the two main sources of virus shedding. A seroepidemiological study of HSV-2 was undertaken on a representative sample (n = 3974) of the Spanish population to assess indirectly the relative relevance of these two transmission routes. The sample comprised 1922 men and 2052 women in the age range 5-59 years, stratified by sex and age (5-12, 13-19, 20-29, 30-39, 40-49, and 50-59 years). Sera were screened for HSV-2 specific Ig G antibodies by an enzyme-linked immunoabsorbent assay based on recombinant glycoprotein G2 (gG2). The overall prevalence of antibodies to HSV-2 was 3.6% (95% CI: 3. 1-4.2%). Prevalence by gender did not differ: males (3.6%; 95% CI: 2. 8-4.6%) and females (3.6%; 95% CI: 2.8-4.5%). There were no significant differences between age groups with respect to seropositivity rates. Detection of HSV-2 antibodies was not associated with increasing age, as is expected for a sexually transmitted disease. The fact that seroprevalence rates among the different age groups did not differ suggests that the virus is not circulating in the general population and may be restricted to risk groups only. Similar positivity rates found in the group of females of childbearing age and in the youngest population indicate that perinatal viral shedding is the main source of HSV-2 seroconversion in the Spanish population.
Copyright 1999 Wiley-Liss, Inc.