Can herpes be misdiagnosed by the swab or the blood test?

There is research that says that almost every person who lives in the United States would get infected by herpes till the time they reach their sixties. What is meant by nearly every person is about 85% of the population. So, if you have had an annoying cold sore on your tongue, you have basically had an HSV outbreak. The virus doesn't leave a lasting symptom for most of the people with herpes. Neither are the symptoms major ones.

But for an individual who gets infected with genital herpes, it is a severe medical issue that needs to be managed with a very strong type of antiviral medication. Genital herpes is a common STI that comes with flu-like symptoms and painful sores. Moreover, for herpes to be managed, it also had to be diagnosed at first. But how accurate are the testing results and the methods? All this would be explained below.

How do the doctors test the genital herpes?

To begin with, there are only two types of herpes simplex virus as called HSV. One is the HSV-1 that causes cold sores. It is also known as oral herpes or the herpes simplex labialis. The other one is the HSV-2 which is the reasons of genital herpes. It is the same virus that the World Health Organization said is highly responsible for a lot of the genital herpes cases that are there in the USA.

Moving ahead, genital herpes is caused by the transmission of the HSV-2 through the skin-to-skin contact during intercourse. But there are chances that the genital-to-mouth contact can also transmit it with the HSV-1. This would lead to cold sores around the lips and the tongue. Anyway, it doesn't matter which herpes you are infected with as the end result is the same. And it includes the recurring flare-ups that come with fever, painful urination, swollen lymph nodes, and stinging, running and itchy blisters. They usually heal and scab within several weeks. So, if you are planning to get involved on a dating site with herpes suffers, keep in mind what you are getting into.

Since the symptoms are bound to be dormant for a long time, and for the fact that the virus can also spread in a lot of ways. This disease is communicable easily and has to be tested if there is any suspicions of the infections. The tests that your doctor can perform for you to diagnose the genital herpes includes:

  • Cell Culture – A swab would be taken from your sore to examine it under the microscope. If there are no symptoms like these, you would have to get the blood test done.
  • Antibody Tests (IgM, IgG - Immunoglobulin M & G respectively) – For the body to fight the HSV infection in your body, two types of antibodies are created. Antibodies are the blood proteins that fight off the bacteria and viruses. The two kinds are the IgM and IgG. The IgG comes after a small time into the body and stays for the rest of the person's life. The IgM comes immediately, but unlike the other one, it can disappear later on. So, the doctor would take the blood sample to test for the antibodies in the medical lab.
  • PCR Blood Tests – This can detect genital herpes even when you do have any of the physical symptoms and is considered the best as compared to the other test options. This includes taking a blood sample to check if the virus' DNA is present in your blood.

How often is genital herpes misdiagnosed & which test has the most accurate results?

Not all the tests are useless; some tests do give higher accurate results as compared to the others. As per the American Sexual Health Association (ASHA), the PCR blood test is the one that is highly preferred for testing genital herpes. The PCR blood tests are a kind of Nucleic Acid Amplification Testing (NAAT). And the ASHA calls it a fast and accurate test, where there are low chances to get false negatives with it. And it is right now the most common method for how to diagnose herpes.

Moreover the ASHA recommends to avoid the IgM tests since they are the least accurate tests and might keep giving wrong results.The reasons are:

  • 1. The IgM tests can also pick on the other common viruses, like the CMV (cytomegalovirus) and the VZV (varicella zoster virus) that can lead to the confusing diagnosis of the chicken pox or mono.
  • 2. Moreover, the IgM has the potential to even disappear or reappear at any time in the body. This would make things more confusing. Furthermore, the patterns are not consistent where the IgM comes in only one-third of the infected patients.
  • 3. Moreover, unlike the PCR blood test are not sensitive to tell the difference between the HSV-1 and the HSV-2. This can lead to a person who has a simple Flu, to be misdiagnosed with HSV-2 when they don't actually have it. This might make the person have the medications that are not right.

Even though there are high accuracy rates for the genital herpes tests, but a misdiagnosis is always a risk in this case. So, a person needs to be careful if they are infected with it or are dating someone from the dating sites for herpes sufferers. They need to be sure and check a lot of times before they confirm it.