Background: Persistent HPV-16 infection is a marker for risk of progression to high-grade cervical lesions. The predictive value of HPV-16 viral loads for persistent HPV-16 infection was assessed longitudinally in a cohort of 1055 sexually active women.
Methods: HPV-16 viral loads were measured with real-time PCR targeting the E6 gene in 948 genital specimens collected from 139 women (100 HIV-seropositive, 39 HIV-seronegative).
Results: Forty of 139 participants were classified as having persistent HPV-16 infection (lasting more than 12 months) and 27 women had transient infection. CD4 counts were negatively correlated with HPV-16 loads (R=-0.29, p=0.02). In multivariate analysis controlling for age, HIV, race and CD4 counts, peak HPV-16 viral loads (odds ratio (OR) 1.3, 95% confidence interval (CI) 1.0-1.7) and CD4 cell counts (OR 2.0, 95% CI 1.1-3.6) were associated with persistence of HPV-16 infection. Women with > or =10(7) HPV-16copies/microg cellular DNA were infected for a longer period of time than women with a lower viral load after controlling for age, CD4 count and HIV status (p=0.01).
Conclusion: Higher HPV-16 viral loads were predictive of persistence of HPV-16 infection, a marker risk for potential progression to high-grade pre-cancerous and cancerous lesions of the cervix.