Seroepidemiology of Herpes Simplex virus type 1 and 2 in Western and Southern Switzerland in adults aged 25-74 in 1992-93: a population-based study

BMC Infect Dis. 2004 Mar 17:4:10. doi: 10.1186/1471-2334-4-10.


Background: Genital herpes is one of the most prevalent sexually-transmitted diseases, and accounts for a substantial morbidity. Genital herpes puts newborns at risk for very severe disease and also increases the risk of horizontal HIV transmission. It thus stands as an important public health problem. The recent availability of type-specific gG-based assays detecting IgG against HSV-1 and HSV-2 allows to establish the prevalence of each subtype. Worldwide, few data have been published regarding the seroprevalence in general populations of HSV-2, the major causative agent for genital herpes, while no data exist regarding the Swiss population.

Methods: To evaluate the prevalence of IgG antibodies against HSV-1 and HSV-2 in Switzerland, we used a population-based serum repository from a health examination survey conducted in the Western and Southern area of Switzerland in 1992-93. A total of 3,120 sera were analysed by type-specific gG-based ELISA and seroprevalence was correlated with available volunteers characteristics by logistic regression.

Results: Overall, seroprevalence rates were 80.0 +/- 0.9% (SE, 95% CI: 78.1-81.8) for HSV-1 and 19.3 +/- 0.9% (SE, 95% CI: 17.6-21.1) for HSV-2 in adults 35-64 year old. HSV-1 and HSV-2 seroprevalence increased with age, with a peak HSV-2 seroprevalence in elderly gentlemen, possibly a seroarcheological evidence of sexually transmitted disease epidemics during World War II. Risk factors for HSV-2 infection included female sex, marital status other than married, and size of town of residence larger than 1500 inhabitants. Unexpectedly and conversely to HSV-1, HSV-2 seroprevalence increased with educational level. HSV-2 infection was less prevalent among HSV-1 infected individuals when compared to HSV-1 uninfected individuals. This effect was most apparent among women at high risk for HSV-2 infection.

Conclusions: Our data demonstrate that by the early nineties, HSV-2 had spread quite largely in the Swiss population. However, the epidemiology of HSV-2 in Switzerland presents paradoxical characteristics, e.g. positive correlation with education level, that have not been observed elsewhere.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Data Collection
  • Educational Status
  • Female
  • Herpes Genitalis / epidemiology*
  • Herpes Genitalis / immunology
  • Herpes Genitalis / virology
  • Herpes Simplex / epidemiology*
  • Herpes Simplex / immunology
  • Herpes Simplex / virology
  • Herpesvirus 1, Human / immunology
  • Herpesvirus 1, Human / isolation & purification*
  • Herpesvirus 2, Human / immunology
  • Herpesvirus 2, Human / isolation & purification*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Pregnancy
  • Seroepidemiologic Studies*
  • Social Class
  • Switzerland / epidemiology