Which histologic findings are characteristic of herpes simplex virus (HSV) infection?

Updated: Feb 27, 2019
  • Author: J Michael Klatte, MD; Chief Editor: Russell W Steele, MD  more...
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Herpes simplex virus infects cells of ectodermal origin.

Infected cells swell with intracellular edema and degeneration.

The nuclei of infected cells undergo mitotic division, resulting in the formation of multinucleated giant cells. The nuclei of herpes simplex virus–infected cells often demonstrate eosinophilic intranuclear inclusions and marginated nuclear chromatin.

As cells manifest injury and as local inflammation progresses, intercellular edema develops and forms vesicles. Cutaneous vesicles eventually progress to pustules and heal by crusting. Mucosal vesicles are transient and appear as shallow ulcers.

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