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Varicella Zoster PCR

Primary infection with varicella zoster virus (VZV) causes chickenpox, while reactivation of the virus is responsible for varicella zoster, or shingles. The most common clinical manifestation of infection is dermal vesicles. Although viral culture of vesicular fluid has been the standard diagnostic test, the sensitivity is less than 50%.

Laboratories are replacing conventional herpes virus culture of genital lesions with PCR. In addition to enhanced sensitivity, PCR results are available within 1 to 2 days instead of 3 to 10 days required for cultures. Vesicular fluid can be collected with a tuberculin syringe and transferred to viral transport media, or vesicles can be unroofed and the base of the lesion swabbed to obtain infected epithelial cells. 

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