Varicella Zoster virus antibodies - serum

Last updated: Sunday, 28, May, 2006

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Item Process
Specimen

5-10 mL blood in plain tube.

Method

Immunoassay.

Reference Interval

Not detected.

Application

To determine susceptibility to infection with varicella zoster virus, particularly after exposure of an at risk patient (eg, pregnancy, immunosuppression) to chicken pox (varicella) or shingles (herpes zoster).

Not necessary for the diagnosis of varicella or shingles, as clinical signs should make the diagnosis obvious. In atypical cases, the diagnosis is best made by viral antigen detection or by nucleic acid detection after amplification, depending on local availability.

Interpretation

In the rare case where the diagnosis is not clear from clinical findings and virus detection has not been successful a positive antibody result indicates previous varicella infection and likely immunity, although both false positives and false negatives occur.

A four-fold rise in titre over a 2-4 week period supports the diagnosis of acute varicella infection, but is less helpful in confirming a diagnosis of shingles.

Zoster immunoglobulin administration can result in detectable antibody levels for up to 10 weeks after the injection.

Reference

Arvin AM. Clin Microbiol Rev 1996; 9: 361-381.