Tzanck test

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A positive Tzanck test, showing three multinucleated giant cells ("Tzanck cells") in center.

In dermatopathology, the Tzanck test, also Tzanck smear, is scraping of an ulcer base to look for Tzanck cells. It is sometimes also called the Chickenpox skin test and the herpes skin test.

Tzanck cells (multinucleated giant cells) are found in:


  1. Unroof vesicle and scrape base w/ sterile surgical blade
  2. Smear onto clean glass slide
  3. Fix w/ gentle heat or air dry
  4. Fix w/ MeOH
  5. Stain w/ Giemsa, methylene blue or Wright’s stain
  6. Microscopic examination using oil immersion lens. (Look for multinucleate giant cells)[2]


It is named after Arnault Tzanck (1886–1954), a French dermatologist.


  1. ^ Folkers E, Oranje AP, Duivenvoorden JN, van der Veen JP, Rijlaarsdam JU, Emsbroek JA (August 1988). "Tzanck smear in diagnosing genital herpes". Genitourinary medicine 64 (4): 249–54. PMC 1194227. PMID 3169755. 
  2. ^ Pettit, Normal Microbiota of the Skin, ATSU School of Osteopathic Medicine Arizona, Lecture Slides. Jan 2013.

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