Multicenter Evaluation of the Simplexa VZV Direct Assay for Detection of Varicella-Zoster Virus in Cerebrospinal Fluid and Lesion-Swab Specimens

J Clin Microbiol. 2022 Apr 20;60(4):e0235521. doi: 10.1128/jcm.02355-21. Epub 2022 Mar 14.


Varicella-zoster virus (VZV) is the etiologic agent of varicella (chickenpox) and herpes zoster (shingles) infections commonly involving skin, mucous membranes, and less frequently the central nervous system. Traditional methods for the laboratory diagnosis of these infections are time-consuming, labor-intensive, and often insensitive. As such, these tests are being replaced by more sensitive and rapid molecular methods. This study evaluated the performance of two different molecular assays, the Simplexa VZV Direct and Simplexa VZV Swab Direct, to detect VZV DNA in cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) and lesion-swab specimens, respectively. The Simplexa VZV Direct and Simplexa VZV Swab Direct assays were compared against individual composite reference methods that varied depending on the sample cohort examined. A total of 883 CSF and 452 cutaneous and mucocutaneous prospective, retrospective, and contrived specimens were evaluated in this multicenter study. The results of this study showed that the Simplexa assays demonstrated near perfect agreement (k = 0.98) compared to the composite reference methods for the detection of VZV in CSF and lesion swab specimens. A further comparison between the standard of care molecular assays employed at the site of specimen collection and the Simplexa assays demonstrated excellent agreement (k = 1.0). The Simplexa assays offer rapid and reliable alternatives for the detection of VZV in certain clinical specimens without the need for nucleic acid extraction.

Keywords: cerebrospinal fluid; real-time PCR; shingles; swab; varicella-zoster virus.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Chickenpox* / diagnosis
  • Herpes Zoster* / diagnosis
  • Herpesvirus 3, Human / genetics
  • Humans
  • Prospective Studies
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Specimen Handling