Herpes simplex virus: Global infection prevalence and incidence estimates, 2016

Charlotte James, Manale Harfouche, Nicky J. Welton, Katherine M.E. Turner, Laith J. Abu-Raddad, Sami L. Gottlieb, Katharine J. Looker*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

356 Citations (Scopus)


Objective To generate global and regional estimates for the prevalence and incidence of herpes simplex virus (HSV) type 1 and type 2 infection for 2016. Methods To obtain data, we undertook a systematic review to identify studies up to August 2018. Adjustments were made to account for HSV test sensitivity and specificity. For each World Health Organization (WHO) region, we applied a constant incidence model to pooled prevalence by age and sex to estimate the prevalence and incidence of HSV types 1 and 2 infections. For HSV type 1, we apportioned infection by anatomical site using pooled estimates of the proportions that were oral and genital. Findings In 2016, an estimated 491.5 million people (95% uncertainty interval, UI: 430.4 million–610.6 million) were living with HSV type 2 infection, equivalent to 13.2% of the world’s population aged 15–49 years. An estimated 3752.0 million people (95% UI: 3555.5 million–3854.6 million) had HSV type 1 infection at any site, equivalent to a global prevalence of 66.6% in 0–49-year-olds. Differing patterns were observed by age, sex and geographical region, with HSV type 2 prevalence being highest among women and in the WHO African Region. Conclusion An estimated half a billion people had genital infection with HSV type 2 or type 1, and several billion had oral HSV type 1 infection. Millions of people may also be at higher risk of acquiring human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), particularly women in the WHO African Region who have the highest HSV type 2 prevalence and exposure to HIV.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)315-329
Number of pages15
JournalBulletin of the World Health Organization
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - May 2020
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020, World Health Organization. All rights reserved.


Dive into the research topics of 'Herpes simplex virus: Global infection prevalence and incidence estimates, 2016'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this