Cervical scrapes were obtained from 215 women with cytologically normal cervices and 74 women with cervical intraepithelial neoplasia (CIN) and probed for HPV 6, 11, 16, and 18 by dot-blot hybridization. Viral copy numbers were determined by densitometric scanning of autoradiographs.
The prevalence of HPV DNA in women with normal smears was as follows: 23 per cent of women attending a Family Planning Clinic (FPC), 16 per cent of women attending a Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STD) clinic, and 48 per cent of women attending a laser follow-up clinic after treatment of CIN. Ten per cent of women with normal cervices harboured HPV 16. Viral copy numbers ranged from 1300 to 52 800 genome equivalents per cell. Twenty-seven HPV-positive women with normal smears (including four patients infected with HPV 16) were followed for up to 3 years. None developed CIN irrespective of copy number.
Our results show that HPV is present in normal cervices in the absence of CIN. Copy number has no relation to the development of CIN and factors other than the amount of HPV DNA may trigger the neoplastic process.