Herpes simplex virus: global infection prevalence and incidence estimates, 2016

Charlotte R James, Manale Harfouche, Nicky J Welton, Katherine Mary Elizabeth Turner, Laith J Abu-Raddad, Sami L Gottlieb, Katharine J Looker

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

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Objective To generate global and regional estimates for the prevalence and incidence of herpes simplex virus (HSV) type 1 and type 2 infection for 2016.

Methods To obtain data, we undertook a systematic review to identify studies up to August 2018. Adjustments were made to account for HSV test sensitivity and specificity. For each World Health Organization (WHO) region, we applied a constant incidence model to pooled prevalence by age and sex to estimate the prevalence and incidence of HSV types 1 and 2 infections. For HSV type 1, we apportioned infection by anatomical site using pooled estimates of the proportions that were oral and genital.

Findings In 2016, an estimated 491.5 million people (95% uncertainty interval, UI: 430.4 million–610.6 million) were living with HSV type 2 infection, equivalent to 13.2% of the world’s population aged 15–49 years. An estimated 3752.0 million people (95% UI: 3555.5 million–3854.6 million) had HSV type 1 infection at any site, equivalent to a global prevalence of 66.6% in 0–49-year-olds. Differing patterns were observed by age, sex and geographical region, with HSV type 2 prevalence being highest among women and in the WHO African Region.

Conclusion An estimated half a billion people had genital infection with HSV type 2 or type 1, and several billion had oral HSV type 1 infection. Millions of people may also be at higher risk of acquiring human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), particularly women in the WHO African Region who have the highest HSV type 2 prevalence and exposure to HIV.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)315 - 329
Number of pages15
JournalBulletin of the World Health Organization
Volume98 (2020)
Early online date25 Mar 2020
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 25 Mar 2020


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