, Volume 31, Issue 3, pp 143-148

Cervical Human Papillomavirus Infection in Tunisian Women

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Background: It is well established that certain types of human papillomavirus (HPV) are the sexually transmitted agents etiologically linked to cervical cancer. Sexual habits have been shown to be a major determining factor for HPV infection. A large study was carried out to investigate the prevalence and risk factors associated with cervical infection with HPV in Tunisian women.

Materials and Methods: PCR and restriction enzyme digestion were used to characterize HPV cervical infection in 106 Tunisian married women and 51 legal prostitutes. Epidemiological data were collected and correlated with HPV molecular genotyping.

Results: There was a higher relative frequency of HPV-DNA in prostitutes (39%) than in married women (14%) (p = 0.001). Molecular analyses of HPV types showed the most prevalent type in prostitutes to be HPV-16, a high-risk oncogenic type. In married women, the most prevalent type was HPV-6 which is associated with a low risk for cervical cancer. HPV-DNA detection was markedly increased in young adult women and in those having recent sexual experience.

Conclusion: Cervical HPV infection in Tunisia is less frequent than in other African countries, but far from uncommon. The decrease of HPV prevalence in older women, regardless of their sexual behavior, may result from an efficient immune response acquired with age.