The significance of human papillomavirus viral load in prediction of histologic severity and size of squamous intraepithelial lesions of uterine cervix

Gynecol Oncol. 2001 Oct;83(1):95-9. doi: 10.1006/gyno.2001.6336.


Objectives: Persistence of high-risk types of human papillomavirus (HPV) in cervical scrapes is responsible for the development, maintenance, and progression of squamous intraepithelial lesions (SILs). Previous studies of viral load and histologic severity have ended with controversial results. This study evaluated the relationships of HPV viral load with size and histologic severity of cervical lesions, which has not been reported previously.

Methods: By using Hybrid Capture II, DNA level of high-risk HPVs was determined in cervical scrapes and correlated with lesion size and histologic confirmation for 73 women referred for colposcopy. The lesion size was classified as nonvisible (n = 12), small (< or =2/5 of the 12x colposcopic visual filed, n = 36), and large (>2/5 of the 12x field, n = 25) lesions. The final disease status was categorized as high-grade SIL (HSIL)/squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) (designated HSIL+) (n = 32), low-grade SIL (LSIL) (n = 19), and no detectable SIL (n = 22).

Results: A distinct upward trend of high-risk HPV DNA levels paralleled increasing size and histologic severity of cervical lesions (P = 0.003 and 0.001, respectively). With respect to relative risk, women who had high viral load of HPV were at significantly greater risk for large lesion size (odds ratio [OR] = 5.3, 95% confidence interval [CI] = 1.1-24.9) and HSIL+ (OR = 35.0, 95% CI = 4.2-294.5). Of particular note, the risk of developing large lesion size and HSIL+ significantly increased with increasing viral load of HPV (P values for trend test were 0.008 and 0.0004, respectively). In contrast, there were no significant associations of trend in viral load with risk in small lesion size and LSIL.

Conclusions: The present study revealed that the effect of HPV infection on SIL development is highly influenced by high viral load and highlighted a potential application of viral load testing in predicting the size and severity of lesions of the uterine cervix.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell / virology*
  • DNA, Viral / analysis
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Papillomaviridae* / genetics
  • Papillomavirus Infections / complications*
  • Papillomavirus Infections / virology
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Tumor Virus Infections / complications*
  • Tumor Virus Infections / virology
  • Uterine Cervical Dysplasia / virology*
  • Uterine Cervical Neoplasms / virology*
  • Viral Load


  • DNA, Viral