Background: Little is known about the natural history of human papillomavirus (HPV) infection in Asian women.
Methods: A follow-up study was conducted, with exfoliated cervicovaginal cells self-collected from, and questionnaires administered to 197 female students, aged 17-26 years, who had been already examined one and half years before. The presence of 25 HPV types was evaluated by a polymerase chain reaction-based assay.
Results: The acquisition of new infection for any HPV type among 171 female students at risk who were negative at baseline, 60% of whom had remained as virgins, was 17.5% (95% confidence interval [CI]: 11.8-23.2). Among individual types, HPV16, 18 and 35 showed the highest rate of new infection. Women who had had first sexual intercourse (OR = 2.9; 95% CI: 1.0-8.8), or had changed sexual partners (OR = 2.9; 95% CI: 0.9-9.3) during the follow-up period showed a higher risk of new HPV infection than women who had remained virgins since baseline. The rate of new infection also tended to be higher in those who started, or continued smoking during the follow-up period, than in nonsmokers. Clearance of HPV infections since baseline examination was 80.6% (95% CI: 67.6-93.5), and did not differ between high-risk and low-risk HPV types or between single- and multiple-type infections.
Conclusion: This study shows that the acquisition of new HPV infection among young women in the Republic of Korea is high and also the clearance is frequent. Self-collection of cervicovaginal cells is applicable to follow-up studies that include virgins.