Background: The most common human papillomavirus (HPV) genotypes isolated from cervical cancer in select African countries are HPV-16, HPV-18, HPV-35, and HPV-45, but the most common genotypes in Zambia are unknown. The overall objective of this study was to assess the potential impact of current HPV vaccines in preventing cervical cancer in Zambia, by determining the combined prevalence of HPV-16 and/or HPV-18 in invasive cervical cancer (ICC) and high-grade pre-cancer [cervical intraepithelial neoplasia 2 or 3 (CIN2/3)] cases.
Findings: We compared DNA extraction techniques to determine which assay performs well in the Zambian context, where unbuffered formalin is used to fix specimens. We then tested specimens with the Abbott RealTime High-Risk HPV test to estimate the prevalence of HPV-16/18 in formalin-fixed, paraffin-embedded ICC and CIN2/3 specimens. DNA extraction using heat (without xylene) was more successful than xylene-based extraction. Over 80% of specimens tested using heat extraction and the Abbott RealTime HPV test were positive for HPV. HPV-16 and/or HPV-18 were identified in 65/93 (69.9%) ICC specimens positive for HPV and in 38/65 (58.5%) CIN2/3 specimens positive for HPV.
Conclusions: To our knowledge this is the first report to identify HPV genotypes in cervical cancers in Zambia. A combined HPV-16/18 prevalence of 69.9% in ICC specimens suggests that current vaccines will be highly protective against cervical cancer in Zambia.