Virological confirmation of varicella zoster virus (VZV) vasculopathy is provided by presence of virus in the cerebral arteries, frequently associated with inflammation. Yet, cerebral arteries from normal subjects have never been studied for VZV DNA or antigen. We analyzed 63 human cerebral arteries from 45 subjects for VZV DNA and antigen, control herpes simplex virus (HSV)-1 DNA and antigen, and leukocyte-specific CD45 antigen. No cerebral arteries contained VZV or HSV-1 DNA or antigen; eight arteries from seven subjects contained leukocytes expressing CD45. Thus, the presence of VZV antigen in cerebral arteries of patients with stroke is likely to be clinically significant.