What are the sexual predilections of herpes simplex virus (HSV) infection?

Updated: Mar 17, 2020
  • Author: Sean P McGregor, DO, PharmD; Chief Editor: William D James, MD  more...
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The frequency of HSV-1 antibodies is slightly higher in females than in males (33.2% vs 27.1%). [7] In a study of more than 600 pregnant women, 63% were seropositive for HSV-1, 22% for HSV-2, and 13% for both, and 28% were seronegative. Nonwhite race and having had four or more sexual partners independently correlated with increased HSV-2 infection. Non-Hispanic white pregnant women had the highest percentage of seronegativity for both HSV-1 and HSV-2. However, this group had the highest risk of having a child with neonatal herpes, indicating their susceptibility for new HSV infection during their third trimester of pregnancy (when a mother is most likely to transmit infection to her neonate). [21]

Socioeconomic factors appear to play a substantial role as well. Seropositivity for HSV-2 has been shown to be as high as 88% in homeless women or women with unstable housing. [22] Associated risk factors in this population were alcohol use, heterosexual orientation, HIV infection, and lower income status. [22]

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