Persistent infection with high-risk human papillomavirus (HPV) types is necessary for the development of high-grade cervical dysplasia and cervical carcinoma. The presence of HPV DNA in the blood of cervical cancer patients has been reported; however, whether HPV DNA is detectable in the blood of patients with pre-invasive cervical disease is unclear.
The objectives of this study were to determine if HPV 16 and HPV 18 DNA could be detected in the serum of colposcopy clinic patients, and if serum HPV detection was associated with grade of cervical disease and HPV cofactors.
Samples were selected from a biorepository collected from non-pregnant, HIV-negative women ages 18–69 attending colposcopy clinics at two urban public hospitals. Cervical disease status was based on review of colposcopy, biopsy and cytology findings. Serum HPV DNA detection was conducted using a novel PCR and mass spectroscopy-based assay.
Of the 116 adequate serum samples, all (100%) were negative for HPV 16 and HPV 18. Over half (51.7%) of participants had cervical HPV 16 and/or HPV 18 infection. Nearly one-third (31.1%) had high grade, 10.3% had low grade, and 50.9% had no cervical disease. Nearly one-third (28.5%) had ever regularly smoked cigarettes, 70.7% had early onset of sexual intercourse, and 75% had ever used oral contraceptives.
In this colposcopy clinic population with a range of clinical characteristics and established HPV cofactors, HPV DNA was undetectable in their serum. Our findings suggest that serum HPV DNA detection is not a cervical cancer screening tool.
Keywords: Human papillomavirus, Cervical neoplasias, Screening, Serum, Quantitative polymerase chain reaction, Mass spectroscopy