Nucleic acid tests for the detection of alpha human papillomaviruses

Vaccine. 2012 Nov 20:30 Suppl 5:F100-6. doi: 10.1016/j.vaccine.2012.04.105.


Testing for high-risk types of alpha human papillomaviruses (HPV) is an invaluable part of clinical guidelines for cervical carcinoma screening, management and treatment. In this comprehensive inventory of commercial tests for detection of alpha-HPV, we identified at least 125 distinct HPV tests and at least 84 variants of the original tests. However, only a small subset of HPV tests has documented clinical performance for any of the standard HPV testing indications. For more than 75% of HPV tests currently on the market, no single publication in peer-reviewed literature can be identified. HPV tests that have not been validated and lack proof of reliability, reproducibility and accuracy should not be used in clinical management. Once incorporated in the lab, it is essential that the whole procedure of HPV testing is subject to continuous and rigorous quality assurance to avoid sub-optimal, potentially harmful practices. Manufacturers of HPV tests are urged to put more effort into evaluating their current and future products analytically, using international standards, and for clinical applications, using clinically validated endpoints. To assist with analytical validation, the World Health Organization is developing international standards for HPV types other than HPV16 and HPV18 and is planning development of external quality control panels specifically designed to be used for performance evaluation of current and future HPV tests. There is a need for more competitively priced HPV tests, especially for resource-poor countries, and uniform test validation criteria based on international standards should enable issuing more competitive and fair tender notices for purchasing. Automation systems allowing large-scale testing, as well as further increases in clinical performance, are the main needs in the further improvement of HPV tests. This article forms part of a special supplement entitled "Comprehensive Control of HPV Infections and Related Diseases" Vaccine Volume 30, Supplement 5, 2012.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Alphapapillomavirus / genetics
  • Alphapapillomavirus / isolation & purification*
  • Automation, Laboratory / methods
  • DNA, Viral / genetics
  • DNA, Viral / isolation & purification*
  • Humans
  • Molecular Diagnostic Techniques / methods*
  • Molecular Diagnostic Techniques / standards
  • Papillomavirus Infections / diagnosis*
  • Quality Assurance, Health Care
  • Reagent Kits, Diagnostic
  • Reference Standards
  • Virology / methods*
  • Virology / standards


  • DNA, Viral
  • Reagent Kits, Diagnostic