Background: Only limited data on the seroprevalence of herpes simplex virus type 2 (HSV-2) are available from European countries. Until recently, serologic tests for HSV-2 serotyping have been hampered by cross-reactivity to type-common antigens. The present study aims at providing data on the prevalence of HSV-2 infection in a group of STD clinic attendees using a reliable type-specific immunoassay.
Goal: To evaluate the seroprevalence of HSV-2 and the accumulated incidence of clinical genital herpes infection in a sample of Spanish sexually transmitted disease (STD) clinic attendees.
Study design: The study consisted of two parts. First, a cross-sectional study of HSV-2 seroprevalence was conducted in patients with STDs. Second, a prospective cohort study was undertaken to evaluate the accumulated incidence of infection by HSV-2 and of clinical episodes of genital herpes in HSV-2-negative patients included in the first study during a follow-up period of 6 to 18 months.
Results: Of the 374 patients (129 men, 245 women) studied, 25% were seropositive for HSV-2 (12% of men, 30% of women). Antibodies to HSV-2 were related to female gender (odds ratio, 2.7; P < 0.001) and to the number of sexual partners (odds ratio, 4.1; P < 0.001). Fifty-two percent of patients (145 of 281 patients) who were initially seronegative returned to the clinic for a second serologic testing, of whom 1% (2 of 145 patients) had seroconverted. None of the patients developed genital herpes during the follow-up period.
Conclusion: The relatively high seroprevalence (25%) and the low rate (4%) of HSV-2 previously reported in the general population in Spain suggest that the virus circulation may be restricted to certain risk groups. Therefore, future healthcare measures may target specific groups, such as patients with STDs.