Viral Shedding 1 Year Following First-Episode Genital HSV-1 Infection

Christine Johnston, Amalia Magaret, Hyunju Son, Michael Stern, Molly Rathbun, Daniel Renner, Moriah Szpara, Sarah Gunby, Mariliis Ott, Lichen Jing, Victoria L. Campbell, Meei Li Huang, Stacy Selke, Keith R. Jerome, David M. Koelle, Anna Wald

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Importance: Herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1) is the leading cause of first-episode genital herpes in many countries. Objective: To inform counseling messages regarding genital HSV-1 transmission, oral and genital viral shedding patterns among persons with first-episode genital HSV-1 infection were assessed. The trajectory of the development of HSV-specific antibody and T-cell responses was also characterized. Design, Setting, and Participants: Prospective cohort followed up for up to 2 years, with 82 participants followed up between 2013 and 2018. Participants were recruited from sexual health and primary care clinics in Seattle, Washington. Persons with laboratory-documented first-episode genital HSV-1 infection, without HIV infection or current pregnancy, were referred for enrollment. Exposures: First-episode genital HSV-1 infection. Main Outcomes and Measures: Genital and oral HSV-1 shedding and lesion rates at 2 months, 11 months, and up to 2 years after initial genital HSV-1 infection. Participants self-collected oral and genital swabs for HSV polymerase chain reaction testing for 30 days at 2 and 11 months and up to 2 years after diagnosis of genital HSV-1. Blood samples were collected at serial time points to assess immune responses to HSV-1. Primary HSV-1 infection was defined as absent HSV antibody at baseline or evolving antibody profile using the University of Washington HSV Western Blot. HSV-specific T-cell responses were detected using interferon γ enzyme-linked immunospot. Results: Among the 82 participants, the median (range) age was 26 (16-64) years, 54 (65.9%) were women, and 42 (51.2%) had primary HSV-1 infection. At 2 months, HSV-1 was detected from the genital tract in 53 participants (64.6%) and in the mouth in 24 participants (29.3%). Genital HSV-1 shedding was detected on 275 of 2264 days (12.1%) at 2 months and declined significantly to 122 of 1719 days (7.1%) at 11 months (model-predicted rate, 6.2% [95% CI, 4.3%-8.9%] at 2 months vs 3.2% [95% CI, 1.8%-5.7%] at 11 months; relative risk, 0.52 [95% CI, 0.29-0.93]). Genital lesions were rare, reported on 65 of 2497 days (2.6%) at 2 months and 72 of 1872 days (3.8%) at 11 months. Oral HSV-1 shedding was detected on 88 of 2247 days (3.9%) at 2 months. Persons with primary HSV-1 infection had a higher risk of genital shedding compared with those with nonprimary infection (model-predicted rate, 7.9% [95% CI, 5.4%-11.7%] vs 2.9% [95% CI, 1.7%-5.0%]; relative risk, 2.75 [95% CI, 1.40-5.44]). Polyfunctional HSV-specific CD4+ and CD8+ T-cell responses were maintained during the follow-up period. Conclusions and Relevance: Genital HSV-1 shedding was frequent after first-episode genital HSV-1, particularly among those with primary infection, and declined rapidly during the first year after infection..

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1730-1739
Number of pages10
Issue number17
StatePublished - Nov 1 2022

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Medicine


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