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Dermatology Online Journal

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Clinical features of atypical presentations of mucocutaneous herpes simplex virus infection observed in immunosuppressed individuals. Part II: the knife-cut sign


The knife-cut sign is a distinctive manifestation of herpes simplex virus (HSV) type 1 or HSV type 2 infection that has been described in at least 10 immunocompromised patients. It appears as an extremely painful linear erosion or fissure in an intertriginous area such as the body folds beneath the breast, or within the abdomen, or in the inguinal region. Also, concurrent HSV infection at other mucocutaneous sites, or viscera, or both have been observed. The patients had medical conditions (at least 9 patients) and/or immunosuppressive drug therapy (6 patients). The diagnosis of HSV infection was confirmed by viral culture (8 patients), biopsy (4 patients), direct fluorescence antibody testing (3 patients), immunohistochemistry staining (2 patients), polymerase chain reaction (2 patients), or Western blot serologic assay (1 patient). Knife-cut sign-associated HSV infection is potentially fatal; three patients died. However, clinical improvement or complete healing occurred in the patients who received oral valacyclovir (1 patient), or intravenous acyclovir (2 patients), or intravenous acyclovir followed by foscarnet (1 patient). In summary, HSV infection associated with a positive the knife-cut sign is a potentially fatal variant of HSV infection that occurs in the intertriginous areas of immunocompromised patients and usually requires intravenous antiviral therapy.

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