AIMS/BACKGROUND: Herpes simplex virus (HSV) may establish latent infection in the cornea and therefore be transmissible by corneal transplantation. Monitoring of donor cornea culture medium was evaluated for HSV infection. METHODS: HSV was sought using virus isolation in cell culture, and its DNA was amplified to detectable levels using the polymerase chain reaction (PCR). RESULTS: Virus isolation in cell culture was negative on neat, cell pellet, and cell free supernatant prepared from the spent culture media of 80 corneas. Three cell pellets (3.8%) were positive for HSV DNA. The PCR positive culture negative results might have reflected latent rather than active HSV infection of the cornea. Post transplant follow up of the three recipients of corneas with HSV PCR positive organ culture media revealed no evidence of HSV induced eye disease or primary graft failure. CONCLUSION: Screening of corneal culture medium for HSV by virus culture or for HSV DNA by PCR could not be recommended.