Identification of Herpes Zoster–Associated Temporal Arteritis Among Cases of Giant Cell Arteritis

Erin M. Buckingham, Maria A. Foley, Charles Grose, Nasreen A. Syed, Morton E. Smith, Todd P. Margolis, Matthew J. Thurtell, Randy Kardon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

34 Scopus citations


Purpose: To examine whether herpes zoster antigen (also called varicella-zoster virus antigen) was detectable in temporal artery biopsies taken from individuals with giant cell arteritis (GCA). Design: Retrospective comparative case series. Methods: Sections of formalin-fixed paraffin-embedded temporal arteries were examined first by hematoxylin-eosin (H&E) staining to establish the diagnosis of GCA. Adjacent sections of the same biopsy were then examined by immunohistochemistry, using 2 different monoclonal antibodies against a major antigen of varicella-zoster virus called gE. Pathologic specimens were obtained from patients cared for at the University of Iowa and Washington University in St. Louis ophthalmology clinics. Results: The study included biopsies from 25 patients with symptoms of GCA as well as positive H&E pathology and 25 patients with symptoms compatible with GCA but negative H&E pathology. Among the GCA-positive group, 3 patients had positive staining for herpes zoster antigen. Among the GCA-negative group, herpes zoster antigen was not detected in any biopsy. In both groups of patients, false-positive staining for herpes zoster antigen was detected in the presence of calcifications in the arteries. False-positive staining was also detected on some extra-arterial skeletal muscle and erythrocytes. Conclusion: Herpes zoster antigen was detected in 3 of 25 temporal arteries from patients with biopsy-proven GCA. One of the 3 positive cases was noteworthy because the patient had had herpes zoster ophthalmicus diagnosed 3 weeks before the onset of GCA symptoms. False-positive staining for herpes zoster antigen was detected on several temporal artery biopsies.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)51-60
Number of pages10
JournalAmerican journal of ophthalmology
StatePublished - Mar 2018


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