Background. Cervical cancer affects 1 in 2000 Zimbabwean women. We investigated the type-specific distribution of human papillomavirus (HPV) infection in Zimbabwean women with invasive cervical cancer.
Methods. We conducted a descriptive study on 98 women with invasive cervical cancer. The methods used were a nested polymerase chain reaction (PCR) for amplification of HPV-DNA and restriction fragment length polymorphism (RFLP) to characterize the HPV types.
Results. HPV-DNA was identified in 97% of the cases. HPV types 16, 33, 18 and 31 were identified in 61%, 39%, 18% and 4% of the patients, respectively. We typed one case each of HPV types 35 and 58. Multiple HPV infections were present in 24%. All patients (n = 3) with adenocarcinoma of the cervix were infected with the HPV. Patients infected with HPV-16 alone presented at a median age of 46 years while those infected with HPV-33 alone presented at 43 years. However, patients coinfected with both HPV-16 and HPV-33 were between 10 and 13 years older (median age of 56 years) than patients with either HPV-16 or HPV-33 as single infections. These differences were marginally significant (p = 0.08) or significant (p = 0.02), respectively.
Conclusion. We present the first prevalence data on HPV types in patients with cervical cancer in Zimbabwe and show that, provided appropriate techniques are employed, HPV infection can be identified in a majority of the patients. The distribution of HPV types should be taken into consideration in tailoring locally relevant vaccines against HPV.