I've never had any symptoms of a Herpes simplex virus 2 infection. However, I want to find out if I carry this type of virus in my body. Is it true that there is an antibody test to answer that question? Can it detect an inactive infection? If that test finds antibodies, does it mean I carry this virus for sure?

2 Answers 2


Most viruses can be in your body with no indications or current antibodies to detect

Viruses live inside your cells, if they stay there they are very hard to detect, but may also do no damage, so they are generally not a problem

While some medical organisations may claim they can detect a virus from blood test, there is no 100% guarantee, especially if it not currently causing as antibody reaction

For HSV specifically, the antibody tests are known not to be 100% accurate. The main failure is for lack of detection, not for false positive. See oxford journals

Many people get HSV (1 or 2), have one minor reaction, which they may not even notice, and that's it for the rest of their live, no further issues. Only a small percentage of the population have continual issues. This applies to many other viruses

You can probably also say that close to 100% of people will carry the HSV virus by their time of death. So don't worry about it

If you have active sores from HSV, treat them, and avoid behaviour that would spread them

..."Unlike love, Herpes is forever"

  • Hi and welcome to the site. "Answers" are reserved for answers that address the OP's question, not discussion (unlike forums). While informative, this doesn't really address the OP's specific question about HSV2. Please see the site tour and the help sections for more information about the site, particularly "How to Answer". If you can edit this answer to include the information asked for, that would be superb! Thanks. Commented Jun 30, 2015 at 2:53
  • -1 er's please comment or refute?
    – TFD
    Commented Jun 30, 2015 at 4:24
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    Please avoid extended discussions in comments. They are intended to refine answers. :) This post has the makings of a very good answer, but here on Health, we strongly encourage using references. They are the only way in which we can tell if information is reliable or not. If you want to learn more about our site's stance on answers without references, check out, Should answers without references be immediately deleted?. It also helps to summarize links, to prevent loss from site decay.
    – JohnP
    Commented Jun 30, 2015 at 4:27
  • @JohnP It was rude to delete. The comments came to the point where the SE robot auto prompted to stop and it stopped. Now you have deleted the wonderfully rude moderator comments :-) How can a site grow if your remove stuff?
    – TFD
    Commented Jun 30, 2015 at 12:02
  • @TFD - I also deleted your belligerent responses. If you feel the moderator was rude, you are more than welcome to invite them to chat to discuss.
    – JohnP
    Commented Jun 30, 2015 at 14:44

There are several types of HSV tests, with varying benefits and drawbacks. To address your questions regarding the antibody test:

  • Can it detect an inactive infection: Yes. The antibody test isn't actually looking for the virus, it's looking for signs that your body has responded to an infection and produced antibodies for it. As such, infections in the past that are now inactive may produce a positive antibody test, though this depends on a lot of factors, like how long ago the infection took place, etc.
  • If that test finds antibodies, does it mean I carry this virus for sure? No. All diagnostic tests have a false positive rate. That being said, based on the literature I can find for people without symptoms, this rate appears to be fairly low.

It should be noted that "CDC does not recommend screening for HSV-1 or HSV-2 in the general population."

  • Don't know if it's worth pointing out that in addition to the ELISAs there are qPCR tests. They have the possibility to differentiate active infection, but often don't.
    – Atl LED
    Commented Jan 13, 2016 at 2:18

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