Human papillomavirus testing methods

Arch Pathol Lab Med. 2003 Aug;127(8):940-5. doi: 10.5858/2003-127-940-HPTM.


Testing for human papillomavirus (HPV) relies exclusively on techniques of molecular biology using nucleic acid probes. Tests for HPV using nucleic acid probes have been commercially available since the late 1980s, but early tests were cumbersome, involving the use of nucleic acid probes labeled with radioactive phosphorus (32P). These early HPV tests did not achieve widespread use because they did not detect all oncogenic HPV genotypes. The current commercial HPV detection kit, Digene's Hybrid Capture 2 kit, detects virtually all high-risk oncogenic HPV types, as well as most low-risk nononcogenic HPV genotypes. The Hybrid Capture 2 test format is a proprietary nucleic acid hybridization signal amplification system owned by Digene Corporation. Virtually all test formats for DNA sequence analysis are amenable to applications intended to detect and perhaps quantify the various HPV genotypes. These methods can involve direct hybridization with complementary DNA probes, such as Southern blotting or in situ hybridization, signal amplification, such as the Hybrid Capture 2 method or target nucleic acid amplification, most notably the polymerase chain reaction (PCR). Polymerase chain reaction has been used for HPV detection, genotyping, and viral load determination. General or consensus primer-mediated PCR assays have enabled screening for a broad spectrum of HPV types in clinical specimens using a single PCR reaction. Following amplification using consensus primers, individual HPV genotypes are identified using a variety of methods. Using consensus primers in a test format known as real-time quantitative PCR (RQ-PCR), it is possible to generate viral load (concentration) data from reaction curves generated by monitoring PCR reaction kinetics in real time.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Female
  • Humans
  • Molecular Diagnostic Techniques / methods*
  • Papillomaviridae / classification
  • Papillomaviridae / genetics
  • Papillomaviridae / isolation & purification*
  • Papillomavirus Infections / classification
  • Papillomavirus Infections / diagnosis*
  • Papillomavirus Infections / genetics
  • Papillomavirus Infections / virology*
  • Tumor Virus Infections / classification
  • Tumor Virus Infections / diagnosis*
  • Tumor Virus Infections / genetics
  • Tumor Virus Infections / virology*
  • Uterine Cervical Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Uterine Cervical Neoplasms / virology*