Ethnic variation in type of genital herpes simplex virus infection in a South London genitourinary medicine clinic

J Med Virol. 2003 Jan;69(1):108-10. doi: 10.1002/jmv.10251.


The aims of this study were to investigate the prevalence of herpes simplex virus (HSV) types 1 and 2 in the study population and correlate the results with clinical and demographic details. Consecutive HSV isolates from 334 clinic attendees were typed by immunofluorescence. Patient information was collected from the case notes. Overall, HSV-1 was isolated from 48 and HSV-2 from 287 samples, respectively. There was no significant difference in isolation rates according to gender. However, 33% of white patients' isolates typed as HSV-1, while only 6% of the isolates from the black population were HSV-1 (P < 0.001). Initial infections were seen in 81% of HSV-1 infections and 48% of HSV-2 infections, respectively. A wide discrepancy was observed in the prevalence of HSV-1 and HSV-2 infections between the ethnic groups in this population, which was not explained in terms of gender or age. This may reflect different exposure to HSV-1 in childhood or different sexual practices. The increased prevalence in genital HSV-1 reported in recent studies was not seen in this population. However, the differing proportions of primary and first episode infections may reflect a changing epidemiology.

MeSH terms

  • Antibodies, Viral / blood*
  • Female
  • Herpes Genitalis / epidemiology*
  • Herpes Genitalis / virology
  • Herpes Simplex / epidemiology
  • Herpesvirus 1, Human / isolation & purification*
  • Herpesvirus 2, Human / immunology
  • Herpesvirus 2, Human / isolation & purification
  • Humans
  • London / epidemiology
  • London / ethnology
  • Male
  • Prevalence
  • Seroepidemiologic Studies


  • Antibodies, Viral