Background: Genital shedding of herpes simplex virus (HSV) type 2 occurs frequently. Anatomic patterns of genital HSV-2 reactivation have not been intensively studied.
Methods: Four HSV-2-seropositive women with symptomatic genital herpes attended a clinic daily during a 30-day period. Daily samples were collected from 7 separate genital sites. Swab samples were assayed for HSV DNA by quantitative polymerase chain reaction. Anatomic sites of clinical HSV-2 recurrences were recorded.
Results: HSV was detected on 44 (37%) of 120 days and from 136 (16%) of 840 swab samples. Lesions were documented on 35 (29%) of 120 days. HSV was detected at >1 anatomic site on 25 (57%) of 44 days with HSV shedding (median, 2 sites; range, 1-7), with HSV detected bilaterally on 20 (80%) of the 25 days. The presence of a lesion was significantly associated with detectable HSV from any genital site (incident rate ratio [IRR], 5.41; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.24-23.50; P= .02) and with the number of positive sites (IRR, 1.19; 95% CI, 1. 01-1.40; P=.03). The maximum HSV copy number detected was associated with the number of positive sites (IRR, 1.62; 95% CI, 1.44-1.82; P<.001).
Conclusions: HSV-2 reactivation occurs frequently at widely spaced regions throughout the genital tract. To prevent HSV-2 reactivation, suppressive HSV-2 therapy must control simultaneous viral reactivations from multiple sacral ganglia.