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S Afr Med J. 2006 Nov;96(11):1186-90.

The agreement between cervical abnormalities identified by cytology and detection of high-risk types of human papillomavirus.

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Institute of Infectious Disease and Molecular Medicine, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Cape Town, South Africa.



Human papillomavirus (HPV) is causally associated with cervical cancer. Using the Digene Hybrid Capture 2 high-risk HPV test (HC2), we investigated the prevalence of high-risk HPV in cervical specimens, and compared results with those of Papanicolaou (Pap) smears taken concurrently.


Cervical specimens were obtained from women attending hospitals / community health centres in the Western Cape province of South Africa. They were participating in a case-control study of the association of hormonal contraceptives and invasive cervical cancer.


Of 1 491 women tested, 254 (17%) were HPV DNA positive. The age-specific prevalence of HPV was 36/97 (37.1%) in those aged < 30 years, 78/369 (21.1%) in those aged 30 - 39 years, 78/603 (12.9%) in those aged 40 - 49 years and 62/422 (14.7%) in those aged 50 - 59 years. In women with normal cytology the prevalence of HPV was 10.9% (138/1 264); in those with abnormal squamous cells of unknown significance (AS-CUS) it was 30.8% (36/117); in those with low-grade squamous intraepithelial lesions (LSIL) it was 63.2% (36/57), and in those with high-grade squamous intraepithelial lesions (HSIL) it was 83% (44/53). The odds ratio between HPV and HSIL in women aged 40 - 59 years was 57.1 (confidence interval 22.4 - 170.7).


HC2 detected a high prevalence of HPV (17%) in this population. Most women with HSIL (83%) were positive, indicating that HPV testing of AS-CUS women may aid in management. When costs decrease, HC2 could be introduced as an adjunct to Pap smears in identifying women at risk for high-grade cervical disease and could be useful in the maintenance of cervical health in those who remain Pap smear negative.

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