On 5 April, at the Microbiology Society’s Annual Conference in Edinburgh, researchers will show that levels of cancer-causing human papillomavirus (HPV) in Scotland have dropped 90% in young women, following a vaccination campaign that began in 2008. The researchers believe that this may itself lead to a 90% reduction in cervical cancer cases in Scottish women.
HPV is a sexually transmitted virus that is responsible for the majority of cervical cancer cases. Two genotypes of the virus - 16 and 18 - are themselves responsible for around 80% of cervical cancers in Scotland and 70% around the world.
The Health Protection Scotland team - led by Dr Kevin Pollock, Senior Epidemiologist - performed a longitudinal population study to measure the impact that HPV immunisation has had since its introduction in 2008.
Using patients’ Community Health Index (CHI) numbers, the team could link anonymous results from women born in 1995 attending cervical screening with their vaccination records. They could then assess the levels of HPV and the genotypes present. These results were then compared with women who were born between 1989 and 1990 who were unvaccinated. In total, the study included samples collected from over 20,000 women, making this one of the largest population-based studies to examine the impact of the vaccine.
A clinically validated assay showed that only ~0.5% of women from the 1995 group tested positive for HPV 16/18, compared with 21.4% of women born before 1990. In addition, the study showed evidence that the vaccine also protects against three other high-risk HPV genotypes involved in the development of cervical cancer: 31, 33 and 45.
Further details of the conference are at https://www.microbiologysociety.org/event/annual-conference-2017.html.