The sensitivity and specificity of immunocytochemistry were compared with those of non-isotopic in situ hybridisation (NISH) for the direct detection of human papillomaviruses in biopsy specimens. Four monoclonal antibodies raised to the capsid protein of HPV16 were less specific than NISH: all four reacted with lesions containing HPV33, and HPV18. Absolute discrimination of HPV types, therefore, was not possible with the monoclonal antibodies used in this study. The relative sensitivities of these antibodies were also lower than NISH. Sequential immunocytochemistry and NISH on the same section showed that 2.9-13.0 times as many cells were positive by NISH than by immunocytochemistry using the most sensitive monoclonal antibody. These data indicate that NISH has higher diagnostic specificity and sensitivity than immunocytochemistry using monoclonal antibodies to the HPV16 capsid protein.
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