Background: Previous studies have been inconsistent about the degree of sexual transmissibility of cervical human papillomavirus (HPV) infection. The authors hypothesize that risk factors for HPV infection vary according to HPV type.
Goal: To estimate the prevalence of HPV infection in asymptomatic women and to identify risk factors for overall HPV infection and HPV infection by oncogenic and nononcogenic type.
Study design: A cross-sectional survey was conducted at the McGill University clinic in Montreal. Cervical specimens were collected from 489 female students presenting at the clinic for a routine Papanicolaou test. Data on potential risk factors was obtained by questionnaire. Human papillomavirus DNA was detected by the polymerase chain reaction using consensus primers (MY09/11) followed by hybridization with generic and type-specific probes using Southern blot and dot blot techniques.
Results: The overall HPV prevalence was 21.8%. A low-risk HPV infection was found in 6.2% of the women, 11.8% had a high-risk HPV infection (types 16, 18, 31, 33, 35, 39, 45, 51, 52, 56, 58), 7.1% had an unknown HPV type, and 2.7% had a multiple type infection. Two profiles emerged for sexual activity and risk of HPV infection according to oncogenic risk after multivariate analysis. Lifetime frequency of sexual intercourse and lifetime number of oral sex partners was associated with high-oncogenic-risk HPV infections; however, HPV infection with low-oncogenic-risk types was invariant with respect to markers of sexual activity.
Conclusion: These results suggest that there are differences in epidemiologic correlates of transmission between low-risk and high-oncogenic-risk HPV types based on oncogenicity. This finding has important implications for primary prevention of HPV infection and cervical cancer precursors.