Background: Herpesvirus infections of the central nervous system are often severe but are fortunately rare. The incidence of these infections has however, increased in recent years as a consequence of an increase in the number of immune-compromised individuals. New diagnostic procedures have improved our ability to diagnose these infections and herpesviruses may yet be implicated as the cause of further neurological diseases with no known aetiology. Methodological standards for selection and evaluation of patient materials are essential to the provision of reliable diagnosis, yet few studies have addressed this important issue.
Objectives: To describe and define methodological standards and reference methodology for diagnosis of herpesvirus infections of the CNS.
Study design: Information gathered by literature review.
Results: Only for herpes simplex encephalitis is there sufficient data to allow the definition of reference methodology. Good methodological standards exist but few studies have adhered to these standards. As methods for the detection of specific intrathecal antibody synthesis are well established yet under-used in diagnostic virology, the principle of these measurements is reviewed in some detail.
Conclusions: Herpesvirus infections of the CNS are of increasing importance. High quality, multi-centre studies are needed to establish the value of the new diagnostic test procedures if further improvement in the diagnostic sensitivity and specificity of these procedures is to be achieved.