Seroprevalence and determinants of herpes simplex type 2 infection in an STD clinic in Milan, Italy

J Med Virol. 2002 Jul;67(3):345-8. doi: 10.1002/jmv.10072.


A number of studies have shown that the seroprevalence of herpes simplex virus type 2 (HSV-2) is higher among persons attending clinics for sexually transmitted diseases (STD) than among the general population. The HSV-2 seroprevalence among STD patients, however, varies greatly among studies, possibly reflecting differences in the baseline prevalence of the infection among different general populations or in the distribution of risk factors. A cross-sectional study was carried out to determine the seroprevalence of and the risk factors for HSV-2 infection among 776 HIV-negative persons attending an STD clinic in Milan, Italy. All samples were tested with a commercial HSV type-2 specific gG ELISA test. The HSV-2 seroprevalence was 29.5% (95% CI: 26.3-32.7%). The seroprevalence increased with age, yet it did not differ by gender. Among persons with a current STD, the seroprevalence was 44.3%. At the multivariate analysis, older age was independently associated with HSV-2 infection. A self-reported history of genital herpes was predictive of HSV-2 infection. The agreement between history of genital herpes and HSV-2 seroprevalence was poor, however, stressing that in clinical practice, caution should be used in interpreting the presence or absence of a history of genital herpes as an indicator of the presence or absence of HSV-2 infection. Our data show that HSV-2 seroprevalence among persons attending an STD clinic in Italy is high; thus serological screening for HSV-2 might be advisable for STD patients.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Ambulatory Care*
  • Antibodies, Viral / blood*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Herpes Genitalis / epidemiology*
  • Herpes Genitalis / virology
  • Herpesvirus 2, Human / immunology*
  • Humans
  • Italy / epidemiology
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Risk Factors
  • Seroepidemiologic Studies
  • Sexually Transmitted Diseases / prevention & control*


  • Antibodies, Viral