Background: The low-risk human papillomavirus types 6 and 11 are responsible for approximately 90% of anogenital wart cases, with approximately 190,000 new and recurrent cases reported in the UK in 2010. The UK has recently selected the quadrivalent HPV vaccine, which conveys protection against both HPV6 and HPV 11, as part of its immunisation programme for 2012 and it is expected that this will reduce disease burden in the UK. The aims of the study were to evaluate current strategies used for the monitoring of HPV infection in genital warts and to assess the suitability of laser-capture microdissection (LCM) as a technique to improve the understanding of the natural history of HPV types associated with genital wart lesions.
Methods: DNA and RNA were extracted from whole wart, surface swabs and LCM sections from 23 patients. HPV types present were determined using the Linear Array HPV Genotyping Test (Roche), with HPV DNA viral load and mRNA expression investigated using qPCR and qRT-PCR, respectively.
Results: Results indicated that swabbing the surface of warts does not accurately reflect potential causative HPV types present within a wart lesion, multiple HPV types being present on the surface of the wart that are absent in the lower layers of tissue isolated by LCM. Although it was shown that HPV DNA viral load does not directly correlate with HPV mRNA load, the presence of both DNA and mRNA from a single HPV type suggested a causative role in lesion development in 8/12 (66.6%) of patients analysed, with dual infections seen in 4/12 (33.3%) cases. HPV 6 and HPV 11 were present in more than 90% of the lesions examined.
Conclusions: Surface swabbing of warts does not necessarily reflect the causative HPV types. HPV type specific DNA and mRNA loads do not correlate. HPV 6 and 11 were likely to be causally involved in over 90% of the lesions. Dual infections were also found, and further studies are required to determine the biological and clinical nature of dual/multiple infections and to establish the relationship of multiple HPV types within a single lesion.