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J Clin Microbiol. 2011 Jul;49(7):2643-50. doi: 10.1128/JCM.02570-10. Epub 2011 Apr 27.

Sensitivity, specificity, and clinical value of human papillomavirus (HPV) E6/E7 mRNA assay as a triage test for cervical cytology and HPV DNA test.

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  • 1Agency for Public Health Lazio Sanità, Via di Santa Costanza 53, 00198 Rome, Italy.


There is evidence that testing for human papillomavirus (HPV) E6/E7 mRNA is more specific than testing for HPV DNA. A retrospective study was carried out to evaluate the performance of the PreTect HPV-Proofer E6/E7 mRNA assay (Norchip) as a triage test for cytology and HPV DNA testing. This study analyzed 1,201 women, 688 of whom had a colposcopy follow-up and 195 of whom had histology-confirmed high-grade intraepithelial neoplasia or worse (CIN2+). The proportion of positive results and the sensitivity and specificity for CIN2+ were determined for HPV mRNA in comparison to HPV DNA and cytology. All data were adjusted for follow-up completeness. Stratified by cytological grades, the HPV mRNA sensitivity was 83% (95% confidence interval [CI] = 63 to 94%) in ASC-US (atypical squamous cells of undetermined significance), 62% (95% CI = 47 to 75%) in L-SIL (low-grade squamous intraepithelial lesion), and 67% (95% CI = 57 to 76%) in H-SIL (high-grade squamous intraepithelial lesion). The corresponding figures were 99, 91, and 96%, respectively, for HPV DNA. The specificities were 82, 76, and 45%, respectively, for HPV mRNA and 29, 13, and 4%, respectively, for HPV DNA. Used as a triage test for ASC-US and L-SIL, mRNA reduced colposcopies by 79% (95% CI = 74 to 83%) and 69% (95% CI = 65 to 74%), respectively, while HPV DNA reduced colposcopies by 38% (95% CI = 32 to 44%) and by 15% (95% CI = 12 to 19%), respectively. As a HPV DNA positivity triage test, mRNA reduced colposcopies by 63% (95% CI = 60 to 66%), having 68% sensitivity (95% CI = 61 to 75%), whereas cytology at the ASC-US+ threshold reduced colposcopies by 23% (95% CI = 20 to 26%), showing 92% sensitivity (95% CI = 87 to 95%). In conclusion, PreTect HPV-Proofer mRNA can serve as a better triage test than HPV DNA to reduce colposcopy referral in both ASC-US and L-SIL. It is also more efficient than cytology for the triage of HPV DNA-positive women. Nevertheless, its low sensitivity demands a strict follow-up of HPV DNA positive-mRNA negative cases.

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