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J Invest Dermatol. 1995 Jan;104(1):138-41.

Antibodies to the E4, E6, and E7 proteins of human papillomavirus (HPV) type 16 in patients with HPV-associated diseases and in the normal population.

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Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Loyola University Medical Center, Maywood, IL 60153.


In a cross-sectional study, titers of antibodies to the E4 and E7 proteins of human papillomavirus (HPV) type 16 were measured by peptide-based enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay in 1707 sera. Sera were obtained from healthy individuals (ages 1 to 95 years), from patients with HPV-associated infection (cervical intraepithelial neoplasia and cervical cancer), and from patients who were at high risk for HPV infection (attending a sexually transmitted disease clinic or referred to a colposcopist because of an abnormal Papanicolaou smear). The prevalence of anti-E7 antibodies increased with age, although the overall prevalence in the adult population was low (10.36%) compared to the frequent detection of HPV 16 DNA in the population. This suggests that only a fraction of patients infected with HPV 16 develop an anti-E7 response. The age distribution of anti-E4 antibodies showed a different pattern, i.e., the prevalence was low in the adult population (1.14%) but exceeded 20% in children and teenagers. As the specificity of the anti-E4 reaction was supported by a highly significant association with anti-E6 positivity in children's sera (p = 0.002), it was assumed that infection with HPV 16 can occur frequently early in life. As compared to healthy controls, patients at high risk for HPV infection had a significantly higher frequency (p < 0.001) of antibodies to the HPV 16 E4 protein (but not to the E6 or the E7 protein) in their sera. Therefore, we conclude that in adults E4-specific antibodies may be a marker for virus replication.

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