Varicella-Zoster Virus (VZV) DNA, Qualitative, Real-Time PCR

Whole Blood DNA

Reference range:

This test is intended to be used as an aid in the diagnosis of infections caused by varicella zoster virus (VZV).

The Varicella-Zoster Virus (VZV) DNA PCR test detects the varicella-zoster virus in whole blood or lesions that cause infections such as chickenpox and shingles.

The initial infection of VZV may result in chickenpox. Although most people who have had chickenpox will be immune to the disease for the remainder of their lives, the VZV virus remains inactive in the nerve tissue and may reactivate later in life, causing shingles. In contrast, you can be infected with shingles more than once, though it is rare.

What are symptoms of Chickenpox and Shingles?

Chickenpox and shingles both cause blister-like skin rashes. In addition, chickenpox is a highly contagious disease that causes red, itchy sores (=pox) all over the body. It used to be a prevalent childhood disease, infecting nearly all children in the United States. However, since the development of the chickenpox vaccine in 1995, cases have continued to decline. Chickenpox usually causes mild symptoms in healthy children. In comparison, it can be severe for adults, pregnant women and newborns, and people with weakened immune systems (i.e., those with HIV/AIDS, cancer, and transplant patients).

Shingles is a disease that targets people previously infected with chickenpox. This disease may cause a painful, burning rash on one area of the body, or it may spread to various body parts. Medical experts have estimated that nearly one-third of Americans will get shingles at some point in their lifetime, most often after age 50. The average recovery time for shingles is three to five weeks, but it sometimes causes long-term pain and other health problems.

Other symptoms related to both chickenpox and Shingles include:

- Fever

- Headaches

- Sore throat

You or your healthcare may also order a VZV DNA PCR test to check for immunity to the varicella-zoster virus (VZV). You have immunity if you've had chickenpox or had the chickenpox vaccine. If you have immunity, you can't get chickenpox, but you can still get shingles later in life.

Other names:


Herpes Zoster

PCR (Polymerase Chain Reaction)


Varicella-Zoster Virus (VZV)

Varicella-Zoster Virus Detection by PCR (Polymerase Chain Reaction), CSF

Varicella-Zoster Virus Detection by Real-Time PCR

VZV Dermal

VZV Detection by Real-Time PCR


Cinque P, Bossolasco S, Vago L, Fornara C, Lipari S, Racca S, Lazzarin A, Linde A. Varicella-zoster virus (VZV) DNA in cerebrospinal fluid of patients infected with human immunodeficiency virus: VZV disease of the central nervous system or subclinical reactivation of VZV infection? Clin Infect Dis. 1997 Sep;25(3):634-9. doi: 10.1086/513754. PMID: 9314452.

Brown M, Scarborough M, Brink N, Manji H, Miller R. Varicella zoster virus-associated neurological disease in HIV-infected patients. Int J STD AIDS. 2001 Feb;12(2):79-83. doi: 10.1258/0956462011916820. PMID: 11236108.

Studahl M, Hagberg L, Rekabdar E, Bergström T. Herpesvirus DNA detection in cerebral spinal fluid: differences in clinical presentation between alpha-, beta-, and gamma-herpesviruses. Scand J Infect Dis. 2000;32(3):237-48. doi: 10.1080/00365540050165857. PMID: 10879592.

Iten A, Chatelard P, Vuadens P, Miklossy J, Meuli R, Sahli R, Meylan PR. Impact of cerebrospinal fluid PCR on the management of HIV-infected patients with varicella-zoster virus infection of the central nervous system. J Neurovirol. 1999 Apr;5(2):172-80. doi: 10.3109/13550289909021999. PMID: 10321981.

Sauerbrei A. Varicella-zoster virus infections - antiviral therapy and diagnosis. GMS Infect Dis. 2016 Feb 17;4:Doc01. doi: 10.3205/id000019. PMID: 30671315; PMCID: PMC6301744.

Sauerbrei A. Diagnosis, antiviral therapy, and prophylaxis of varicella-zoster virus infections. Eur J Clin Microbiol Infect Dis. 2016 May;35(5):723-34. doi: 10.1007/s10096-016-2605-0. Epub 2016 Feb 12. PMID: 26873382.

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