Can a herpes test give a false positive?

If you’re worried about contracting genital herpes, the good news is that the condition can be diagnosed through testing. However, receiving an abnormal result on your herpes blood test can cause anxiety and confusion.

The pressing question then becomes – can a herpes test give a false positive? In this article, we’ll take a look at what’s behind the results of type-specific HSV serologic assays to find out why getting just one positive reading may not provide conclusive answers.

What Causes Herpes False Positives?

To understand why someone might receive a mistaken diagnosis, it’s essential to know how these tests work. Laboratories detect antibodies for both HSV-1 (oral herpes) and HSV-2 (genital herpes). The problem is that these tests produce errors because they are not 100% accurate.

Factors associated with potentially inaccurate outcomes include:


HSV-1 has frequently been found to cross-react with antigens from other microorganisms like varicella-zoster virus (VZV), Epstein-Barr virus (EBV), and cytomegalovirus (CMV) [^1]. Therefore some population groups get type 1 and 2 mixed up or confuse cold sores on their oral epithelium as genital infection caused by HVS -2.

Additionally, recent vaccination against VZV can increase the concentration of anti-HSV-2 IgG in serum samples and could yield high scores even if there was no actual presence of underlying symptoms due to reactivation or active viral replication [^5].

Testing too soon after exposure

A person who newly became infected will not immediately have enough viral proteins in their bloodstream than would trigger sufficient immune responses such as antibody production =>a negative reading even when symptomatic displays. Therefore there is recommended waiting time before presenting oneself for testing purposes(from showing early signs).

Let’s examine the types of tests that are likely to show an incorrect diagnosis.

False Positive PCR results

Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) is a molecular diagnostic procedure which detects viral DNA in swabs or urine specimens [^7]. This test is highly sensitive and may yield negative outcomes when there is only minute concentration of virus detected, however false-positives may occur mainly in women attending regular screening clinic sessions. They may experience shedding below catheters – this doesn’t necessarily mean genital herpes.

Due to its amplification component, other microorganisms with nonhomologous sequence patterns would produce cross-reactivity and false positive results if probed via such assay systems|

Non-Specific IgM antibody reaction

A recent infection typically generates short-lived antibodies mostly of the IgA subunit nature while activating immune response, but after some weeks transitional begins – It becomes replaced by “true”IgG/IgM antibodies (detectable for life). Both the old-fashioned ELISA technique (antigen sandwiching) & Western blot method measure quantity over time. A very high score obtained initially indicating raising suspicion lead clinicians to repeat testing before reaching conclusions later on contributing more towards anxiety for both patients as well as medical personnel alike.

It’s common knowledge that HSV 2-IgM indexes above 1 ratio indicate likelihood genes have been activated with no regard given tot he possibility it might be a normal entero-viral infection ravaging organisms at present or causing immune threshold dysregulation–starting off another autoimmune etiology like lupus ERUPTION STYLE OR DEPRESSION BURST OUT|[^3]

Type-specific serological assays-based inaccuracies

Type-specific serology has emerged today aimed primarily at detecting individual herpes subtypes mediated through distinct sets epitopes(glycoproteins) produced during the period immediately following exposure using either Western Blot Assays or EIAs(Eight Enzyme immunoassays)|[^4].

On rare occasions, technical errors may arise leading to “FALSE POSITIVE READING” especially where the threshold index cut-off value suggest low levels of positive but present in serum samples.


While herpes false positives are possible because these tests can produce inaccurate results on occasion, getting a second opinion is strongly recommended should you test positive according to type-specific serological assays and follow-through with further consultations or evaluations.

Persistence and patience from individuals who experience such setbacks seem rewarded as they catch other conditions at an opportune time while tracking progress|

With this information under your belt, it’s important not only to be informed about herpes but also to understand how testing works so that if there is a problem, you can deal with it properly.[^6]

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