One hundred and sixty four cervical scrapes were taken over 26 months from 143 women aged 17 to 53 years, using an Ayre spatula. A smear was prepared from each sample for Papanicolaou staining and for cytological examination for evidence of human papillomavirus (HPV) infection. The cells remaining on the spatula were harvested for DNA analysis. These samples were probed for HPV 6, 16, and 18 and the results of DNA hybridisation and cytology were compared. Cytological changes of HPV (anucleate keratinised and keratinised squamous cells, koilocytic change and dyskeratosis, or multinucleation, or both) were detected in 103 (72%) of the samples where HPV DNA was detected; koilocytic changes were present in only 67 (48%). It is concluded that screening for a range of viral changes is a more sensitive method of detecting HPV infection than screening for koilocytic change alone.
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