Molecular detection methods of human papillomavirus (HPV)

Int J Biol Markers. 2009 Oct-Dec;24(4):215-22. doi: 10.1177/172460080902400401.


Human papillomavirus (HPV) testing can identify women at risk of cervical cancer. Currently, molecular detection methods are the gold standard for identification of HPV. The three categories of molecular assays that are available are based on the detection of HPV DNA and include (1) non-amplified hybridization assays, such as Southern transfer hybridization (STH), dot blot hybridization (DB) and in situ hybridization (ISH); (2) signal amplified hybridization assays, such as hybrid capture assays (HC2); (3) target amplification assays, such as polymerase chain reaction (PCR) and in situ PCR. STH requires large amounts of DNA, is laborious and not reproducible, while ISH has only moderate sensitivity for HPV. The sensitivity of the HC2 assay is similar to that of PCR-based assays, with high sensitivity being achieved by signal rather than target amplification. PCR-based detection is both highly sensitive and specific. Since PCR can be performed on very small amounts of DNA, it is ideal for use on specimens with low DNA content. In the future, with the advance of technology, viral DNA extraction and amplification systems will become more rapid, more sensitive, and more automated.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Female
  • Humans
  • Nucleic Acid Hybridization
  • Papillomaviridae / genetics
  • Papillomaviridae / isolation & purification*
  • Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Sequence Analysis, DNA
  • Uterine Cervical Neoplasms / diagnosis