The seroepidemiology of herpes simplex virus type 1 and 2 in Europe

Richard Pebody*, Nicholas Andrews, David Brown, R. Gopal, H. De Melker, G. François, N. Gatcheva, W. Hellenbrand, S. Jokinen, I. Klavs, M. Kojouharova, T. Kortbeek, B. Kriz, K. Prosenc, K. Roubalova, P. Teocharov, W. Thierfelder, M. Valle, P. Van Damme, R. Vranckx

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

171 Citations (Scopus)


Objectives: To describe the seroepidemiology of herpes simplex virus (HSV) types 1 and 2 in the general populations of eight European countries to better understand recent reported changes in disease epidemiology. Methods: Belgium, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, England and Wales, Finland, Germany, Netherlands, and Slovenia conducted national cross sectional serological surveys for HSV-1 and HSV-2 between 1989 and 2000. Survey sizes ranged from 3000 to 7166 sera. External quality control was ensured through reference panel testing. Results: Large intercountry and intracountry differences in HSV-1 and HSV-2 seroprevalence were observed. Age standardised HSV-1 seroprevalence ranged from 52% in Finland, to 57% in the Netherlands, 67% in Belgium, 81% in Czech Republic, and 84% in Bulgaria. Age standardised (>12 years) HSV-2 seroprevalence ranged from 24% in Bulgaria, to 14% in Germany, 13% in Finland, 11% in Belgium, 9% in Netherlands, 6% in Czech Republic, and 4% in England and Wales. In all countries, probability of seropositivity for both infections increased with age. A large proportion of teenagers and young adults remain HSV-1 susceptible particularly in northern Europe. Women were significantly more likely to be HSV-2 seropositive in six of seven (p<0.05) countries and HSV-1 seropositive in four of seven (p<0.05) countries, particularly in northern Europe. No significant evidence of a protective role of HSV-1 for HSV-2 infection was found adjusting for age and sex (p<0.05). Conclusions: There is large variation in the seroepidemiology of HSV-1 and HSV-2 across Europe. The observation that a significant proportion of adolescents are now HSV-1 susceptible may have implications for transmission and clinical presentation of HSV-1 and HSV-2.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)185-191
Number of pages7
JournalSexually Transmitted Infections
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2004


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