Herpes simplex – Skin and genital

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

Virus Culture Collection Kit Order # 390081

Submission and Collection Notes


Follow the instructions found in the Virus-Culture Kit Instruction Sheet.

HSV resistance testing is also available at NML (National Microbiology Laboratory, Winnipeg when clinically indicated. Specimens submitted for this test is initially cultured at PHO Laboratory prior to submission to NML for HSV 1 or HSV 2 resistant testing: NML guidelines-Viral Exanthemata and STDs-Viral STI, Polyoma and Herpesvirus unit.

Preparation Prior to 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.

Requisitions and Kit Ordering

Test Frequency and Turnaround Time (TAT)

Herpes Simplex Virus culture is performed daily Monday to Friday.

Turnaround time is between 2 to 12 days (see test methods for more detail).

Contact PHO Laboratory Customer Service Centre to request typing or resistance testing or refer to NML guidelines-Viral Exanthemata and STDs-Viral STI, Polyoma and Herpesvirus unit.

HSV 1 or HSV 2 resistant testing.



Specimens from neonates that are positive for Herpes simplex virus are reported to the Medical Officer of Health as per Health Protection and Promotion Act.

Test Methods

Specimens requesting herpes virus are tested by a shell vial or plate virus culture technique using Diagnostic Hybrids “ELVIS” HSV test system. Positives are identified as Herpes simplex type 1 or 2, and are reported within 2 days.

Specimens not specifically requesting Herpes and those received on weekends and holidays may be set up by virus culture as an alternative.

Samples are observed in culture for a minimum of 10 days to allow for growth of the virus in culture. Samples that are positive can be observed at any point during this period, and can be reported up to 12 days. 

Note: The preferred method of HSV detection is by PCR (not currently available at PHOL) – please contact PHO Laboratory Customer Service for further information.

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Contact Laboratory Customer Service

Laboratory Services


Updated 20 July 2020