Objective: Human papillomavirus (HPV) assays are likely to be used with increasing frequency in clinical management of women with abnormal Papanicolaou smears and in cervical cancer screening. Our objective was to simplify the method of collection of female genital tract specimens. The utility of vaginal dry swabs for HPV diagnosis was evaluated.
Methods: Specimens for cytology and for HPV identification were collected by a clinician from 189 female soldiers attending a military clinic. Three methods of specimen collection for HPV identification were compared: a vaginal dry swab (v-DRY), and vaginal and cervical swabs placed into specimen transport medium (v-STM and c-STM). Swabs were shipped to a STD laboratory for processing. Specific HPV types were identified by a consensus primer based PCR based method. Results from 165 women were evaluable.
Results: HPV prevalence by the three methods was similar and ranged from 44.8% to 50.9%. 53 (32.1%) women were HPV positive and 60 (36.4%) women were HPV negative by all three collection methods. With respect to the risk categories of specific HPV types, there was greater agreement between the results from the two vaginal (v-DRY and v-STM) samples (kappa values of 0.69–0.81) than between the cervical (c-STM) and either of the vaginal samples (kappa values of 0.37–0.55). The HPV yield from c-STM was somewhat greater than that from the vaginal specimens but the correlation between cytological abnormalities and HPV was high for all three methods.
Conclusion: A dry vaginal swab may be an acceptable method of specimen collection for HPV diagnosis.
Key Words: human papillomaviruses; diagnostic assays; dry swabs