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High prevalence of human papillomavirus infection in Eastern European and West African women immigrants in South Italy


Franco M. Buonaguro, Molecular Biology and Viral Oncology and AIDS Reference Centre, National Cancer Institute, ‘Fondazione Pascale’, Cappella Cangiani, I-80131 Naples, Italy. e-mail:


Tornesello ML, Cassese R, de Rosa N, Buonaguro L, Masucci A, Vallefuoco G, Palmieri S, Schiavone V, Piccoli R, Buonaguro FM. High prevalence of human papillomavirus infection in Eastern European and West African women immigrants in South Italy. APMIS 2011; 119: 701–09.

Surveillance of human papillomavirus (HPV) prevalence and genotype distribution in migrant women from middle and low-income countries to developed countries is limited. The aim of this study was to analyze the spectrum of HPV genotypes and prevalence of cervical abnormalities in women emigrated mainly from Eastern Europe and West Africa and living in Southern Italy. The study included 233 migrant and 98 Italian-born women who self-referred to two gynecological outpatient clinics in the Campania region. Cervical specimens were subjected to cytological examination and viral testing by broad spectrum PCR. The prevalence rates of HPV infection were 57.9% and 94.1% among migrant and 19.4% and 88.5% among Italian women with normal and abnormal cytology respectively. HPV infection was detected in 56.1% of Southern and Eastern European, 62.5% of Central and South American, 55.5% of West African, and 73.3% of Southern Asian women with normal cervix. Among the 140 HPV-positive migrants, a total of 28 mucosal HPV genotypes were identified of which 11 types (HPV16, 18, 31, 33, 35, 39, 45, 51, 52, 56, and 58), epidemiological classified as carcinogenic to humans (group 1), accounted for 73.4% of all infections. As expected, HPV16 was the most common viral type in all groups with frequency rates ranging from 12.5% in African to 30.1% in Eastern and Southern European women. In conclusion, the estimated prevalence of HPV infection among migrant women is very high, probably reflecting either lifestyle or high incidence of HPV in their country of origin. The implementation of vaccination strategies and cervical cancer surveillance are critical for women in this risk group.

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