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?
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"
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."