Serum HSV-1 and 2 IgM in patients of sexually transmitted diseases


Background: Herpes simplex virus type1 & 2 (HSV 1 &2) are the causative agent for genital herpes. Aim: To examine Serum HSV-1 and 2 IgM in all type of STD (sexually transmitted disease) patients including Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection and also to evaluate correlation of Serum HSV-1 and 2 IgM in these patients. Materials and Methods: 150 patients attending the STD clinic attached to a tertiary care hospital of Ahmedabad were included in the study. These all patients were screened for HIV-1 and 2 antibodies. Serum HSV-1 and 2 IgM correlations with HIV infection and clinical manifestations of genital herpes patients and other non herpetic STD patients were studied. Results: The overall Serum HSV-1 and 2 IgM in STD seroprevalence was 15.66%. Female have significant higher prevalence (p < 0.05). STD cases and HSV seroprevalence were specially concentrated in persons aged 21 to 30 years. Among those positive with HSV, the distribution of STD are wide spread and found in non herpetic group at high frequency. Out of total 23 Serum HSV-1 and 2 IgM positive, 5 (21.73%) were HIV reactive. Discussion and Conclusion: Though Serum HSV-1 and 2 IgM in sexually transmitted diseases is less diagnostic, it helps to see the iceberg part of the infection among the population concerned recently. Putting STD surveillance systems in place specially in areas with high prevalence of HIV will be crucial in monitoring changes so that appropriate adjustments can be made to treatment schedules to make them more cost effective.

Keywords: Genital herpes, HSV-1 and 2 IgM, STD

How to cite this article:
Tada DG, Khandelwal N. Serum HSV-1 and 2 IgM in patients of sexually transmitted diseases. Ann Trop Med Public Health 2012;5:479-82
How to cite this URL:
Tada DG, Khandelwal N. Serum HSV-1 and 2 IgM in patients of sexually transmitted diseases. Ann Trop Med Public Health [serial online] 2012 [cited 2021 Apr 11];5:479-82. Available from:

Sexually transmitted diseases are markers of high risk sexual behavior. Herpes simplex virus (HSV) types 1 and 2 cause genital herpes infections and are the most common cause of genital ulcer disease worldwide [1],[2] Considering that herpes is a life long infection, not cured by antimicrobial treatment, HSV-2 antibodies are a much more reliable indicator of risky behavior than Treponema palladium antibodies. [3],[4] As large number of genital infections are also caused by HSV-1. The present study was thus undertaken for finding IgM antibodies against HSV-1 and 2.

While most herpetic infections are asymptomatic or mild, some can be transmitted to neonates and are associated with other STDs and cervical neoplasia. Genital herpes may contribute more to human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection because of its higher frequency than other STDs, the recurrence of genital herpes and large number of herpes infected persons who continue their sexual activities despite being infectious. [3] Serology is the only practical way to diagnose HSV infection in individuals without any relevant clinical history or presentation with lesions. [5] Immunoglobulin M (IgM) antibodies to HSV are increased to four times the normal value 2-4 weeks after the infection and the enzyme linked immuno sorbent assay (ELISA) is a specific, sensitive and simple test which confirms the infection by HSV. [6]

Materials and Methods

One hundred fifty (150) blood samples were collected from patients attending the STD clinic attached to a tertiary care hospital of Ahmedabad. These patients’ clinical diagnosis was made by department of skin and venereal diseases, B. J. Medical College, Ahmedabad. The consecutive patients only whose clinical history suggested that clinical manifestations of STDs were established by sexual route were included in this study. Complete history of patient regarding age, sex, contact history, occupation and other risk factors was also collected.Patients with known status were screened for HIV-1 and 2 antibodies by ELISA (ENZAID HIV 1&2; Span Diagnostic Ltd, Surat, India). The sera were tested for HSV-1 and 2 IgM type specific antibodies by ELISA (CALBIOTECH Inc CBI, CA, USA). As we wanted to study genital herpes infection as a whole, irrespective type of causative agent, we used ELISA assay that detects HSV-1 and 2 IgM antibodies simultaneously. Results are analyzed here.


In our study, out of 150 patients we found 23 (15.66%) positive for Serum HSV-1 and 2 IgM from all the STD patients. Out of these 150 we also found 35 (23.33%) were reactive for HIV-1 and 2 antibody testing In disease wise analysis, numbers of genital herpes were the highest among all diseases. All other STDs and their positivity of serum HSV-1 and 2 IgM antibodies as well as HIV reactivity are as described in [Table 1].

Table 1: Disease pattern in STD clinic patients
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98 male and 52 female out of 150 STD patients, 10 male and 13 female were positive for Serum HSV-1 and 2 IgM. Female have statistically significant higher positive proportion than male. (p < 0.05%).Though in study, there was no bar in age group selection, majority of the patients (>97%) of all STDs fall in to 15- 49 age group. overall 21-30 age group has more number of HSV positive patients (52%) than any other age group and especially in female 76% HSV positive in this age group [Table 2]. For all 23 HSV1&2 IgM antibody positive individual, HIV co infection rate is 21.73% (5 out of 23) [Table 3].

Table 2: Age-Sex wise distribution of STD patients
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Table 3: HSV 1and2 IgM among HIV reactive STD patients

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This study applies the clinical presentation of STD and serological herpetic infection correlation in a STD clinic of a tertiary care hospital in India. Using Serum HSV-1 and 2 IgM testing provides valuable information that will help in interpreting the test result of Serum HSV-1 and 2 IgM in any STD patients as many times serological test reports are given unnecessary higher importance without knowing the surrounding factors. The herpes simplex virus persists life-long in neuronal cells (especially in trigeminal and sacral ganglia) and is frequently reactivated with or without clinical manifestations. [7] This study effectively shows that when the disease (e.g. Genital Herpes) whose prevalence is more in population concerned and have latent period, its serological test especially detecting IgM only helps in screening to detect the burden of the disease but has less correlation with the clinical symptoms.

All 23 Serum HSV-1 and 2 IgM positive are also distributed in other type of STDs (48% -11 out of 23), apart from genital herpes cases (52%-12 out of 23). Now a days, Serum HSV-1 and 2 IgM positive in patients of non herpetic clinical manifestations in STD patients is quite common and also reported by many authors in India and as well as outside India too. [3],[8],[9] This shows that these patients may have either simultaneous co infection with HSV-1 and or 2, though the virus is not clinically manifesting the herpetic symptoms and patients shows asymptomatic sero conversion or HSV-1 and /or 2 IgM reactivation. [10]

Despite the relatively high number of genital herpes positive among all STDs (12 out of 23), proportional positivity rate of Serum HSV-1 and 2 IgM is highest in cervico-vaginal discharge (27%). Female as compare to male, have tendency more number and early sero conversion. [11],[12] In our study a high proportion (25 %) of female patient were HSV positive and even from this positive female, 84% were up to age of 30 year. These female of child bearing can act as potential transmitters to their offspring. Detection of sub clinical HSV co infection in this group, by serology facilitates counseling regarding advisability of acyclovir therapy when needed (in addition to treating the other coexisting STD). Transmission of infection from HSV positive males to their sexual partners may further cascade the situation. [13]

There is low proportional positivity of serum HSV Ig M in the herpes group. In earlier studies [14],[15] of comparing the relationship between a history of herpes, symptoms suggestive of herpes, and HSV antibody prevalence, overall, only one-third of those with antibodies to HSV had a clinical diagnosis of herpes. This study has shown that among STDs patients, overall the clinical genital herpes are increased than other STD of earlier time like gonorrhea, syphilis. Genital herpes has become the most common ulcerative STD worldwide. [2] Serological analyses have also shown less prevalence of syphilis than herpes in general as well as STD group as shown in last some studies too. [16],[17],[18],[19]

A higher seroprevalence of HSV-1 and or 2 among females as compared to males has been recorded in the studies in India and outside India. Higher seroprevalence among younger women of compared to men of a similar age group was observed. [20],[21],[22] In our study, the prevalence of HSV-1 and 2 among males was 10% (10 out of 98) which was less compared to females 25% (13 out of 52), particularly the 21-30 age group, the male to female difference is more 8% to 35% respectively. These differences were statistically significant.

Our study has also shown that there is no significant higher (odds ratio <1) HSV 1&2 Ig M positivity among HIV positive cases. This may be due to many reasons.1) There is an overall increase in herpes cases in all groups. 2) There may be early seroconversion or recurrence higher than primary infection.3) There may be abnormal immunological immune response in HIV positive individual.


Most genital HSV infections are unrecognized and undiagnosed, [11] HSV appears to be increasing significantly in developing countries. This has important implications for the spread of HIV because of the facilitatory effect of ulcerative disease on HIV transmission. It must take into account the increased prevalence of HSV now and the likelihood that it will increase in the future. In countries where syphilis and chancroid are still prevalent, it would still be reasonable to treat all new cases of genital ulceration for syphilis and chancroid. The increasing incidence of genital herpes is part of a rapidly changing profile of STD epidemiology in developing countries. Putting STD surveillance systems in place will be crucial in monitoring such changes so that appropriate adjustments can be made to treatment schedules to make them more cost effective. Strong consideration should be given to supporting STD surveillance for gental herpes in areas with high prevalence of HIV. HSV IgM 1&2 detection could be used as supportive test for the diagnosis of genital herpes. But at the sametime, this test also leads to assumption about when a person actually acquired HSV infection.


We are thankful to the staff of microbiology department and also to the department of skin and veneral disease, B. J. medical college Ahmedabad, India for their assistance in our study.

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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None


DOI: 10.4103/1755-6783.105138


[Table 1][Table 2][Table 3]

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