Herpes simplex virus infection, with particular reference to the progression and complications of primary herpetic gingivostomatitis

Clin Microbiol Infect. 2006 Mar;12(3):202-11. doi: 10.1111/j.1469-0691.2005.01336.x.


Primary herpetic gingivostomatitis (PHGS) represents the clinically apparent pattern of primary herpes simplex virus (HSV) infection, since the vast majority of other primary infections are symptomless. PHGS is caused predominantly by HSV-1 and affects mainly children. Prodromal symptoms, such as fever, anorexia, irritability, malaise and headache, may occur in advance of disease. The disease presents as numerous pin-head vesicles, which rupture rapidly to form painful irregular ulcerations covered by yellow-grey membranes. Sub-mandibular lymphadenitis, halitosis and refusal to drink are usual concomitant findings. Following resolution of the lesions, the virus travels through the nerve endings to the nerve cells serving the affected area, whereupon it enters a latent state. When the host becomes stressed, the virus replicates and migrates in skin, mucosae and, in rare instances, the central nervous system. A range of morbidities, or even mortality, may then occur, i.e., recurrent HSV infections, which are directly or indirectly associated with PHGS. These pathological entities range from the innocuous herpes labialis to life-threatening meningoencephalitis.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Disease Progression
  • Encephalitis, Herpes Simplex / etiology
  • Fever / pathology
  • Humans
  • Oral Ulcer / pathology
  • Recurrence
  • Simplexvirus* / physiology
  • Stomatitis, Herpetic / complications
  • Stomatitis, Herpetic / diagnosis*
  • Stomatitis, Herpetic / physiopathology
  • Stress, Physiological
  • Virus Activation
  • Virus Latency