Importance of specimen type in detecting human papillomavirus DNA from the female genital tract

J Med Virol. 2009 Sep;81(9):1620-6. doi: 10.1002/jmv.21561.


HPV testing is a valuable tool in cervical cancer screening and efficacy assessment of HPV vaccines. Concordance of specimens from three sites for detection of HPV DNA in the female genital tract was evaluated. At a single visit, the following specimens were collected: an endo-ecto-cervical swab (EEC), labial/vulvar/perineal/perianal swab (LVPP) and cervicovaginal lavage (CVL). Specimens were evaluated with HPV6, HPV11, HPV16, and HPV18 type- and gene-specific PCR assays. Of the 898 women evaluated at baseline, 232 were HPV PCR positive in at least one specimen. Of these, for HPV6, HPV11, HPV16, and HPV18, respectively, throughout: (a) 70.4%, 40.0%, 65.3%, and 64.1% tested three-site positive; (b) 13.6%, 30.0%, 19.7%, and 18.8% tested two-site positive; and (c) 16.4%, 30.0%, 15.0%, and 17.2% tested single-site positive. For patients who tested single-site positive for HPV6, HPV11, HPV16, or HPV18, respectively, the specimen was: LVPP in 92.3%, 33.3%, 68.2%, and 72.7%; EEC in 0.0%, 33.3%, 18.2%, and 9.1%; and CVL in 7.7%, 33.3%, 13.6%, and 18.2%. Combining results of swab specimens together increases detection of HPV6, HPV11, HPV16, and HPV 18, respectively, to 98.7%, 90.0%, 97.9%, and 96.9%. HPV DNA is detectable from all three sites using type-specific PCR assays; most women who tested positive for a given HPV type were positive for that type in all three specimens.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Cervix Uteri / virology
  • DNA, Viral / isolation & purification*
  • Female
  • Genitalia, Female / virology*
  • Humans
  • Papillomaviridae / isolation & purification*
  • Papillomavirus Infections / diagnosis*
  • Perineum / virology
  • Specimen Handling / methods*
  • Vagina / virology
  • Vulva / virology
  • Young Adult


  • DNA, Viral