Original Article

HSV-1 and HSV-2 Seroprevalence in the United States among Asymptomatic Women Unaware of Any Herpes Simplex Virus Infection (Herpevac Trial for Women)

Authors: Joann M. Schulte, DO, MPH, Abbie R. Bellamy, PhD, Edward W. Hook, MD, David I. Bernstein, MD, Myron J. Levin, MD, Peter A. Leone, MD, Marcia L. Sokol-Anderson, MD, Marian G. Ewel,l ScD, Peter A. Wolff, MS, Thomas C. Heineman, MD, PhD, Robert B. Belshe, MD


Objectives: Recent evidence suggests that the epidemiology of herpes simplex viruses (HSVs) is changing because fewer HSV-1 infections are acquired in childhood and increased sexual transmission of HSV-1 is reported. The objective of the study was to assess the seroprevalence of type-specific antibodies to HSV-1 and HSV-2 in the United States.

Methods: We used the Western blot antibody screening data from a large phase III vaccine efficacy trial (Herpevac Trial for Women) to assess the seroprevalence of type-specific antibodies to HSV-1 and HSV-2 in the United States.

Results: The antibody status of 29,022 women (>31,000 women interviewed and then had their blood drawn for the HSV testing [29,022 women]) between the ages of 18 and 30 years in the United States revealed that increasing age was associated with increasing seroprevalence to HSV. Overall, in asymptomatic women unaware of any HSV infection, HSV-1/-2 status was positive/negative in 45%, negative/positive in 5%, positive/positive in 7%, negative/negative in 38%, and indeterminate in 5%. HSV-1 infections were more common in Hispanic and non-Hispanic black women and in the US northeast and in individuals living in urban areas. HSV-2 was more common in non-Hispanic black women, the US south, and in urban areas.

Conclusions: Seronegative status for both HSV-1 and HSV-2 was the second most common finding after positive antibody to HSV-1 but negative antibody to HSV-2. Despite recent changes in genital herpes epidemiology, most women acquired HSV-1 but not HSV-2 infections before 18 years of age. Among participants screened for study participation and who were unaware of any HSV infection, progressively higher prevalence of the HSV-1 or HSV-2 antibody was observed in older subjects. Many women who test positive for HSV-1 and/or HSV-2 are unaware of their status.

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