Herpes simplex virus and the alimentary tract

Curr Gastroenterol Rep. 2008 Aug;10(4):417-23. doi: 10.1007/s11894-008-0078-8.


Herpes simplex virus (HSV) infection is well known as a sexually transmitted disease. However, relatively little has been published concerning the presentations and treatment of HSV infection within the gastrointestinal tract, where HSV most commonly affects the esophagus in both immunocompromised and immunocompetent patients. HSV proctitis is not uncommon and occurs primarily in males having sex with males. In patients with normal immune systems, gastrointestinal HSV infections are generally self-limited and rarely require antiviral therapy. Treatment of infection is suggested for immunocompromised patients, though no large randomized controlled trials have been performed. This article reviews the manifestations of HSV infection within the luminal gastrointestinal tract and options for diagnosis and treatment.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Colitis / diagnosis
  • Colitis / virology
  • Esophagitis / virology
  • Gastritis / diagnosis
  • Gastritis / virology
  • Gastrointestinal Diseases / diagnosis
  • Gastrointestinal Diseases / virology*
  • Herpes Simplex / diagnosis*
  • Humans
  • Immunocompetence
  • Proctitis / diagnosis
  • Proctitis / virology