OBJECTIVE To determine whether herpes simplex virus (HSV) is present in normal cornea. METHODS HSV genome in 22 corneas from donors without the history of herpes simplex keratitis (HSK), 6 positive control corneas from patients with active herpetic keratitis and 6 negative control corneas from embryos was detected by using polymerase chain reaction (PCR). RESULTS HSV DNA was present in 20 of 22 normal corneas, and no viral genome was detected in any of the embryonic corneas. All the corneas from patients with active herpetic keratitis showed positive PCR results. CONCLUSIONS The results indicate that the HSV genome is present in some normal corneas, that is concordant with the seropositive rate of HSV in people.