AIM: To assess the diagnostic performance of human papillomavirus (HPV) analysis in predicting cervical intraepithelial neoplasia (CIN) grades 2 and 3 in patients with persistent low grade cervical cytological abnormalities. METHODS: Cervical smears from 167 women referred for colposcopy with persistent borderline, wart virus or mildly dyskaryotic changes on cervical screening were analysed by Papanicolaou staining, non-isotopic in situ hybridisation and generic and type specific polymerase chain reaction (PCR) amplification of HPV sequences. Follow up was by cytological and, where appropriate, histological analysis. RESULTS: CIN grade 2 or 3 was identified in 46 patients after a median follow up of 27 months. HPV positivity by both techniques was associated with high grade CIN and with age less than 30 years (median age 33 years). Non-isotopic in situ hybridisation was more predictive but less sensitive than either generic or type specific PCR, but prediction was greater using either molecular technique in women over 30 years of age. CONCLUSIONS: Although the degree of prediction found is of only limited clinical value, the strong association of HPV positivity with both high grade CIN and patient age suggests that further studies of HPV testing in this patient group are warranted.
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