To determine the role of neutralizing antibody generated by human papillomavirus (HPV) infections, baseline levels of serum neutralizing antibodies directed against HPV 16 and cervical HPV DNA were determined in 242 unvaccinated women with low-grade cervical abnormalities, who were then monitored by cytology and colposcopy every 4 months. In women infected with HPV 16 (n = 42), abnormal cytology persisted longer in those positive for HPV 16-specific neutralizing antibodies at baseline (median time to cytological regression: 23.8 vs. 7.2 months). Progression to cervical precancer (cervical intraepithelial neoplasia grade 3) within 5 years occurred only among women carrying HPV 16-specific neutralizing antibodies (P = 0.03, log-rank test). In women infected with types other than HPV 16 (n = 200), detection of HPV 16-specific neutralizing antibodies was not correlated with disease outcome. In conclusion, development of specific neutralizing antibodies following natural HPV 16 infection did not favor a better outcome of low-grade cervical lesions induced by HPV 16 or by other types; rather, detection of neutralizing antibodies generated by current infection may reflect viral persistence and thus help identify those who are at high risk of disease progression. J. Med. Virol. 84: 1128–1134, 2012. © 2012 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.