Short-term fluctuations in the detection of cervical human papillomavirus DNA

Obstet Gynecol. 1996 Aug;88(2):261-8. doi: 10.1016/0029-7844(96)00120-2.


Objective: To obtain point and cumulative prevalence estimates of cervical human papillomavirus (HPV) infection using two HPV DNA detection methods with different end point sensitivities; compare cervical swab and cervicovaginal lavage specimen collection methods for subsequent evaluation by polymerase chain reaction (PCR); and evaluate potential effects of the menstrual cycle on HPV DNA detection.

Methods: Seventy-two college women participated in a 10-week follow-up study. Cervical samples were obtained for HPV DNA detection and typing at each clinic visit, and information was collected concerning menstrual cycle and sexual and hygienic behaviors. Human papillomavirus DNA was detected by the ViraPap HPV DNA dot-blot assay and a broad-spectrum PCR HPV DNA amplification system.

Results: On a weekly basis, point prevalence for HPV infection by the ViraPap assay ranged from 4.2 to 9.7%, and the cumulative prevalence was 13.9%. Point prevalence by the broad-spectrum PCR assay ranged from 20.8 to 47.2%, and the cumulative HPV prevalence was 58.3%. Using cervicovaginal lavage specimens, we found lower cervical HPV prevalence estimates when compared with cervical swab specimens in the HPV PCR-based assay. No correlation between HPV DNA detection and phase of menstrual cycle was observed.

Conclusion: Short-term HPV DNA detection is highly variable within individuals; therefore, single-point measurements of cervical HPV have limitations when assessing an individual's HPV status. The relationship between short-term and long-term HPV DNA persistence profiles may prove relevant to determining the risk of developing cervical intraepithelial neoplasia.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • DNA Probes, HPV
  • DNA, Viral / analysis*
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Papillomaviridae / genetics*
  • Papillomavirus Infections / epidemiology
  • Papillomavirus Infections / virology*
  • Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Prevalence
  • Time Factors
  • Tumor Virus Infections / epidemiology
  • Tumor Virus Infections / virology*
  • Uterine Cervical Neoplasms / epidemiology
  • Uterine Cervical Neoplasms / virology*


  • DNA Probes, HPV
  • DNA, Viral