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Prevalence and Risk Factors for Herpes Simplex Virus Type 2 Infection Among Pregnant Women in Israel


doi: 10.1097/01.OLQ.0000086608.07893.1A

Background Although usually a nuisance to the adult patient, herpes simplex virus type 2 (HSV-2) infection can have devastating consequences on the infected newborn. It is thus important to document the prevalence and risk factors of this infection among pregnant women in a defined population. The availability of the new type-specific assays that provide accurate serologic results prompted us to study the seroprevalence of HSV-2 infection among pregnant women in Israel.

Study Design In a cross-sectional descriptive study, 512 pregnant women were tested. The study population included Israeli-born Jewish and Arab women, and new immigrants from the former Soviet Union. A competition-based enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) was used to detect type-specific HSV-1 and HSV-2 antibodies. Univariate and multivariate analyses were performed to identify risk factors for HSV-2 seropositivity.

Results The prevalence of HSV-2 infection was 13.3% (95% confidence interval, 10.5–16.5%) and that of HSV-1 was 94.9%. History of genital or labial herpes was reported by 1.3% and 26.8% of the participants, respectively. The HSV-2 infection rate was 3-fold higher among immigrants from the former Soviet Union (27.5%) than among Israeli-born Jewish and Arab women (9%). The only risk factor independently associated with HSV-2 seropositivity was multiple lifetime sexual partners.

Conclusion We have documented a relatively low seroprevalence of HSV-2 infection in a demographically mixed group of pregnant women in Israel. The role of high-risk sexual behavior in the spread of the infection has been reconfirmed.

A study of HSV-2 seroprevalence in pregnant Israeli women revealed a 3-fold higher infection rate among immigrants from the former Soviet Union (27.5%) than among Israeli-born Jewish and Arab women (9%). The number of lifetime sex partners was, however, the only significant risk factor

*Infectious Diseases Unit and the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, the E. Wolfson Hospital, Holon, and the Infectious Diseases Unit, Shaare Zedek Medical Center, Jerusalem; and the §Department of Microbiology, Rabin Medical Center, Beilinson Campus, Petah Tikva, Israel

Correspondence: Michael Dan, MD, Wolfson Hospital, Holon 58100, Israel. E-mail:

Received for publication February 18, 2003,

revised May 29, 2003, and accepted May 30, 2003.

© Copyright 2003 American Sexually Transmitted Diseases Association