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What is a viral culture?

A viral culture is a laboratory test in which a sample of cells is taken from a part of the body, a lesion on the body or other source. The cells are put in a Petri dish in a laboratory and watched carefully to see if viral cells grow and if other cells change as a result of the impact of the virus.

Viral cultures may be used for diagnosing many different viral infections. For example, to diagnose genital herpes, a doctor may take a sample of cells from a genital lesion and examine them in the laboratory to determine if they contain the herpes virus. Viral cultures are also used before and during influenza season to determine the strain of flu virus infecting people, and to help in the development of a flu vaccine.

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