QNRF Newsletter Archive

Prevalence of human papillomavirus infection in women in Qatar

Asma al-Thani and her colleagues at Qatar University and Hamad Medical Corporation have recently published the conclusions of their UREP-funded research into the prevalence of human papillomavirus (HPV) infection in women attending a gynecology/oncology clinic in Qatar.

Papilloma viruses are a diverse group of DNA-based viruses that infect the skin and mucous membranes of humans. It includes more than 120 known types; 37 of which are known to be transmitted through sexual contact. HPV infection is considered as the most prevalent sexually transmitted infection in the world. Some HPV types are called" low-risk" because they can cause benign skin warts. On the other hand, high-risk types of HPV are the cause of cervical neoplasia which is the second most common cause of death from cancer among women and the third most common cancer worldwide.

The study aimed to measure not only the prevalence but also the genotypes of high-risk HPV infection and its characteristics in Qatar's female population. Questionnaires were also distributed amongst the patients that included socio-demographic data as well as information about risk factors such as smoking, parity, and the use of contraceptives.

The sample size of 95 women was equally divided between Qatari and non-Qatari women (49.5% : 50.5%) and their ages ranged from 20-68 years, with an average of 41.6 years.

Al-Thani and her colleagues discovered that 64% of women tested positive for HPV DNA, with the highest number of positive cases in the 40-49 year age range.
HPV and age

Incidence of HPV infection with age

Incidence of HPV infection with age

There are more than a dozen types of "high-risk" HPV that can cause abnormal cells to form on the cervix. These abnormal cell changes may gradually develop into cervical cancer if not removed. The 13 types of high-risk HPV that are of most concern are known by the numbers 16, 18, 31, 33, 35, 39, 45, 51, 52, 56, 58, 59 and 68. Types 16 and 18 are the most dangerous, since they cause about 70 percent of cervical cancers.

Analysis of the results showed that of the high-risk types in this sample, HPV-52 was the most prevalent type (55.7%), followed by HPV-56 (34.4%), and HPV-16 (18%) - correlating with similar studies carried out in China and Taiwan.

Cytology studies were also carried out and the authors concluded that the relatively high prevalence of HPV 52 and 56 amongst the study group should have implications in vaccination research for HPV.

A Al-Thani, AI Ali, N Afifi, A Alansari, M Abushma, M Al-Khanj
Qatar University & Hamad Medical Corporation
UREP grant details: http://qnrf.org/awarded/urep/2/index.php?ELEMENT_ID=199
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