Objective: The prevalence of human papillomavirus (HPV) is high in women younger than 30 years of age, most infections being transient. It is not clear, however, to what extent the E6/E7 transcripts are being expressed. This may be of prognostic importance. In this study, we have determined the prevalence of HPV DNA and mRNA in 283 women younger than 30 years of age.
Methods: E6/E7 transcripts from HPV types 16, 18, 31, 33 and 45 were detected using PreTect HPV-Proofer, while the presence of HPV DNA was detected using Gp5+/6+ consensus PCR and type-specific PCR.
Results: A total of 92 women (32.5%) were positive by consensus PCR, 59 (20.8%) were positive by type-specific PCR, while 41 (14.5%) were positive by PreTect HPV-Proofer. E6/E7 mRNA expression was detected in 38 (64.4%) of the 59 HPV type-specific DNA positive women. For HPV 16, E6/E7 mRNA expression was observed in 8 (32%) of the 25 DNA positive women. No high-grade lesions were observed in the concomitant cytology.
Conclusions: Among young women having a normal Pap smear, a high HPV prevalence was found. Hence, use of consensus PCR will most probably give a low prognostic value for identifying subsequent severe dysplasia. The five HPV types 16, 18, 31, 33 and 45 accounted for the majority of infections with two out of three having a detectable E6/E7 mRNA expression. Yet, repeated type-specific testing for HPV mRNA may identify young women with a persistent transforming infection being at increased risk for severe dysplasia.