Immunocytochemical staining for papillomavirus antigen was carried out on 1147 consecutive cervical punch biopsy specimens over 12 months. Of 876 cases with cervical intraepithelial neoplasia (CIN) 351, were antigen positive and of 49 cases with histological evidence of human papillomavirus (HPV) infection but no CIN, 14 were positive. There were 204 cases reported to be normal on routine histological examination and 12 cases reported to show features suggestive but not diagnostic of HPV infection. Of the normal group, 24 (12%) were antigen positive and of the equivocal group, two were positive. In 122 of the normal or equivocal groups cytological examination was repeated at the time of colposcopy, and dyskaryosis was reported in 36. In only four cases was disease shown by HPV antigen staining when there was no diagnostic histological or cytological abnormality. HPV antigen staining assists in the recognition of the range of histological changes associated with productive HPV infection but is an insensitive test and has only limited value in supplementing histological and cytological examinations as a diagnostic aid in routine colposcopic pathology.
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