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Virus Culture, Rapid, Varicella-Zoster Virus (VZV)

Test ID: 


CPT code:



Chickenpox Culture

Culture, Varicella Zoster Virus

Shingles Culture

VZV Culture

Clinical Use:

Aid in the diagnosis of disease caused by varicella-zoster virus (ie, chickenpox and shingles)

Test Information:

Varicella-zoster virus is a single virus that causes two diseases: chickenpox (varicella) in children and, after reactivation from latency, shingles (zoster) in adults. Disease caused by VZV is usually self-limited; however, the disease can be life-threatening in pregnant persons, immunocompromised persons, and children who receive cancer therapy. In addition, congenital chickenpox can result in neonatal systemic disease and/or congenital malformations. Serology for the detection of VZV antibodies is available. Rapid turnaround time of serological tests can be especially important in detecting the presence of antibody (prior exposure) in pregnant persons who have been exposed to persons with chickenpox because VZIG should be given within three days (maximum) of exposure. Cell culture of VZV often has been reported to be less sensitive than direct antigen detection of VZV by immunofluorescence.1,2

Specimen Type:

Vesicular fluid, vesicle scrapings

Container Type: 

Viral, Chlamydia, or Mycoplasma culture transport, or other appropriate transport medium. Smears of vesicle fluid may also be submitted for DFA at additional charge 


Do not prepare collection site with alcohol or iodophors. Vesicle fluid from several vesicles can be pooled and added to viral transport medium. Alternatively, the bases of several freshly unroofed lesions can be vigorously sampled with a sterile swab that subsequently should be placed into cold viral transport medium and sent to the laboratory as soon as possible.

Storage Instructions:

Keep specimens cold and moist.

Rejection Criteria

Bacterial swab specimen; specimen received in grossly leaking transport container; dry specimen; specimen submitted in fixative or additive; specimen received in expired transport media or incorrect transport device; inappropriate specimen transport conditions; specimen received after prolonged delay in transport (usually more than 72 hours); specimen stored or transported at room temperature; wooden shaft swab in transport device; unlabeled specimen or name discrepancy between specimen and request label

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