Serum and cervicovaginal IgG immune responses against α7 and α9 HPV in non-vaccinated women at risk for cervical cancer: Implication for catch-up prophylactic HPV vaccination

PLoS One. 2020 May 18;15(5):e0233084. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0233084. eCollection 2020.


Background: Cervical cancer associated with high risk-human papillomavirus (HR-HPV) infection is becoming the one of the most common female cancer in many sub-Saharan African countries. First-generation immigrant African women living in Europe are at-risk for cervical cancer, in a context of social vulnerability, with frequent lack of cervical cancer screening and HPV vaccination.

Objective: Our objective was to address immunologically the issue of catch-up prophylactic HPV vaccination in first-generation African immigrant women living in France.

Methods: IgG immune responses and cross-reactivities to α7 (HPV-18, -45 and -68) and α9 (HPV-16, -31, -33, -35, -52 and -58) HPV types, including 7 HR-HPV targeted by the Gardasil-9® prophylactic vaccine, were evaluated in paired serum and cervicovaginal secretions (CVS) by HPV L1-virus-like particles-based ELISA. Genital HPV were detected by multiplex real time PCR (Seegene, Seoul, South Korea).

Results: Fifty-one immigrant women (mean age, 41.7 years; 72.5% HIV-infected) were prospectively included. More than two-third (68.6%) of them carried genital HPV (group I) while 31.4% were negative (group II). The majority (90.2%) exhibited serum IgG to at least one α7/α9 HR-HPV. Serum HPV-specific IgG were more frequently detected in group I than group II (100% versus 68.7%; P = 0.002). The distribution of serum and genital HPV-specific IgG was similar, but mean number of IgG reactivities to α7/α9 HR-HPV was higher in serum than CVS (5.6 IgG per woman in serum versus 3.2 in CVS; P<0.001). Rates of IgG cross-reactivities against HPV different from detected cervicovaginal HPV were higher in serum and CVS in group I than group II. Finally, the majority of groups I and II women (68.6% and 68.7%, respectively) exhibited serum or cervicovaginal IgG to Gardasil-9® HR-HPV, with higher mean rates in group I than group II (6.1 Gardasil-9® HR-HPV per woman versus 1.4; P<0.01). One-third (31.2%) of group II women did not show any serum and genital HPV-specific IgG.

Conclusions: Around two-third of first-generation African immigrant women living in France showed frequent ongoing genital HPV infection and high rates of circulating and genital IgG to α7/α9 HPV, generally cross-reacting, avoiding the possibility of catch-up vaccination. Nevertheless, about one-third of women had no evidence of previous HPV infection, or showed only low levels of genital and circulating HR-HPV-specific IgG and could therefore be eligible for catch-up vaccination.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Africa South of the Sahara / ethnology
  • Antibodies, Viral / blood
  • Antibodies, Viral / metabolism*
  • Cervix Uteri / immunology
  • Early Detection of Cancer
  • Emigrants and Immigrants / statistics & numerical data
  • Female
  • France / ethnology
  • Human Papillomavirus Recombinant Vaccine Quadrivalent, Types 6, 11, 16, 18 / immunology*
  • Human papillomavirus 16 / immunology
  • Human papillomavirus 18 / immunology
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Papillomavirus Infections / diagnosis*
  • Papillomavirus Infections / immunology
  • Uterine Cervical Neoplasms / immunology
  • Uterine Cervical Neoplasms / virology*
  • Vagina / immunology


  • Antibodies, Viral
  • Human Papillomavirus Recombinant Vaccine Quadrivalent, Types 6, 11, 16, 18

Grant support

This study was supported by the French National Agency for Research on AIDS and Viral Hepatitis, and the National Public Health Agency: (Grant ANRS-2019-1 awareded by BL). The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.