Herpes simplex – Conjunctival, Skin and genital

Consistent with O. Reg. 671/92 of the French Language Services Act, laboratory testing information on this page is only available in English because it is scientific or technical in nature and is for use only by qualified health care providers and not by members of the public.

Testing Indications

The Herpes Simplex virus (HSV) polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test is a multiplex assay that detects HSV-1, HSV-2 and Varicella Zoster virus (VZV).

Specimen Collection and Handling

Specimen Requirements

Test Requested Required Requisition(s) Specimen Type Minimum Volume Collection Kit

Herpes Simplex Virus

Swab in multi-organism transport medium1

1 swab collected from “fresh” vesicle or lesion

Virus Culture Collection Kit Order # 390081

HSV resistance testing 1

Swab in multi-organism transport medium1

1 swab collected from “fresh” vesicle or lesion

Virus Culture Collection Kit Order # 390081

Submission and Collection Notes


Samples requesting HSV detection will be tested by an in-house multiplex HSV 1 & 2 / VZV PCR method.

HSV resistance testing is referred out to National Microbiology Laboratory (NML) when clinically indicated. Refer to NML guidelines-Viral Exanthemata and STDs-Viral STI, Polyoma and Herpesvirus unit.

Storage and Transport

Label the specimen container with the patient’s full name, date of collection and one other unique identifier such as the patient’s date of birth or Health Card Number. Failure to provide this information may result in rejection or testing delay.

Special Instructions

Specimens should be stored at 2-8°C following collection and shipped to PHOL on ice packs.

Complete all fields of the General Test Requisition Form

Include, the patient’s full name, date of birth, Health Card Number (must match the specimen label), enter the name of the test requested under test description, source of specimen, date of onset, date of collection, physician name and address, and clinical diagnosis. 

Virus Culture Kit Order #390081; Order using Requisition for Containers and Supplies.

Requisitions and Kit Ordering

Test Frequency and Turnaround Time (TAT)

Herpes Simplex Virus polymerase chain reaction (HSV PCR) test will be run daily Monday to Friday.

Turn-around time is up to 4 days upon receipt at PHO’s laboratory.

Test Methods

HSV culture (ELVIS) has been temporarily suspended at PHO’s laboratory since June 2022 due to the emerging MPX (formerly monkeypox) in Ontario. HSV/VZV real-time PCR is performed for HSV detection and HSV typing instead.


Results are reported to the ordering physician or health care provider as indicated on the requisition.

When herpes simplex virus is detected in cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) specimens, result is also reported to the Medical Officer of Health as per Health Protection and Promotion Act.

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Updated 29 July 2022