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Molecular variants of human papillomavirus type 16 and risk for cervical neoplasia in South Africa
  1. J. J. Tu*,
  2. L. Kuhn,
  3. L. Denny,
  4. K. J. Beattie§,
  5. A. Lorincz and
  6. JR T. C. Wright
  1. *Department of Pathology, Weill Medical College of Cornell University, New York, New York
  2. Gertrude H. Sergievsky Center, Columbia University, New York, New York
  3. Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, University of Cape Town, Cape Town, South Africa
  4. §EngenderHealth, New York, New York
  5. Digene Corporation, Gaithersburg, Maryland, New York
  6. Department of Pathology, Columbia University, New York, New York
  1. Address correspondence and reprint requests to: Thomas C. Wright, Jr, MD, Department of Pathology, Columbia University, Room 16-404 P&S Building, 630 West 168th Street, New York, NY 10032, USA. Email: tcw1{at}


Non-European variants of human papillomavirus (HPV) type 16 are generally associated with a greater risk of cervical neoplasia than European prototype variants. We investigated whether this association would persist in a population in which non-European HPV 16 variants were more common. We sequenced HPV 16 isolates in cervical samples collected from 93 Black South African women enrolled in a cervical cancer screening study and examined associations between cervical neoplasia identified though colposcopy with cervical biopsy and the specific HPV 16 variant identified. The European prototype variant (EP) was the most commonly identified variant in this population (47% of all isolates), but African variants (Af-1 and Af-2) were also quite common (41% of all isolates). In contrast to previous studies, we found no evidence that non-European variants were associated with an increased risk of neoplasia. Rather, most of the HPV 16–associated cancers were found in association with EP (71% of 14 cases). In this setting where African HPV 16 variants were common, no increased risk for cervical neoplasia was found among women with these variants compared with other HPV 16 variants.

  • cervical neoplasia
  • human papillomavirus (HPV)
  • viral variants

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