Herpes Simplex Virus, Neonate Surface Screen

HSV, PCR, Culture, nucleic acid amplification, Neonatal, maternal, genital, shedding, intrapartum, postpartum, conjunctivae, mouth, nasopharynx, rectum , WARDE: HSVC, EPIC: LAB 7086, SOFT: NHSVG

Specimen Collection Criteria

  • Use a single swab to collect clinical “surface material” from the conjunctivae, mouth, nasopharynx and lastly the rectum.  If desired, a separate swab can be used for the rectum.
  • Place the swab(s) into a single tube of viral transport media (UVT, UTM).

Physician Office/Drawsite Specimen Preparation

  • Maintain specimen refrigerated (2-8°C or 36-46°F) prior to transport.
  • Do not freeze specimens. 

Preparation for Courier Transport

Transport: refrigerated (2-8°C or 36-46°F).

Rejection Criteria

  • Frozen specimens.
  • Specimens with gross bacterial contamination.
  • Specimens not received in viral transport media.


Sunday - Saturday.
Results available within 24 hours (PCR)

Monday – Saturday
Results available 3 – 6 days.

Reference Range

PCR - Negative.

Culture – Not Detected.

Test Methodology

Real-Time Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR). Rapid Shell Vial Culture.


A negative result does not rule out HSV infection.

Clinical Utility

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends performing newborn “surface cultures” when the mother has active herpes lesions.  Although virus culture is the preferred test method, nucleic acid amplification (i.e. PCR) is more sensitive and provides test results more rapidly.  This test incorporates both PCR and culture testing, and is an optimal testing strategy in this clinical situation.

Clinical Disease

HSV infection of the newborn infant is acquired during 1 of 3 distinct times: intrauterine (in utero), intrapartum (perinatal), and postpartum (postnatal). The time of transmission of HSV-1 or

HSV-2 for the overwhelming majority of infected infants (∼85%) is in the intrapartum

period. An additional 10% of infected neonates acquire HSV-1 postnatally from either a maternal or nonmaternal source, and the final 5% are infected with HSV-2 or HSV-1 in utero.

Five factors known to influence transmission of HSV from mother to neonate are: (1) type of maternal infection (primary vs. recurrent), (2) maternal HSV antibody status, (3) duration of rupture of membranes, (4) integrity of mucocutaneous barriers (e.g. use of fetal scalp electrodes), (5) mode of delivery (cesarean vs. vaginal delivery).  Infants born to mothers who have a first episode of genital HSV infection near term and are shedding virus at delivery are at much greater risk of developing neonatal herpes than are infants whose mothers have recurrent

genital herpes.  The largest assessment of the influence of type of maternal infection on likelihood of neonatal transmission is a landmark study involving almost 60,000 women in labor who did not have clinical evidence of genital HSV disease, approximately 40,000 of whom had cultures performed within 48 hours of delivery.  Of these, 121 women were identified who were asymptomatically shedding HSV and who had sera available for analysis. In this large trial,

57% of infants delivered to women with first-episode primary HSV infection developed

neonatal HSV disease, compared with 25% of infants delivered to women with first-episode nonprimary infection and 2% of infants delivered to women with recurrent HSV disease.


Clinical Report:  Guidance on Management of Asymptomatic Neonates Born to Women with Active Genital Herpes Lesions (American Academy of Pediatrics).  Pediatrics 2013:131(2):635-646.

CPT Code

87529, 87252, 87253 if indicated.

Test Codes


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