The authors were interested in the usefulness of PCR on DNA extracted from saliva and plasma for detecting varicella-zoster virus (VZV) infection and reactivation of VZV in patients with suspected herpes zoster or from healthy volunteers during stressful and nonstressful conditions. 52 patients were included with a diagnosis of herpes zoster (group 1), 30 with a diagnosis of zoster-mimicking disease (group 2) and 27 healthy volunteers (group 3). Among patients with suspected herpes zoster (groups 1 and 2), the sensitivity of PCR on salivary DNA for the detection of VZV was 88%, significantly higher than PCR analysis of plasma DNA (28%). The specificities of the two methods were comparable. VZV DNA could not be detected in saliva and plasma samples from group 3. Therefore real-time PCR of salivary DNA is more sensitive than that of plasma DNA for detecting VZV among patients with suspected herpes zoster.
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