Detection of HIV mRNA in routine liquid-based cytology specimens of HIV-infected women

Maria José Brito, Ana Quintas, Pedro Sequeira, Ana Teresa Alves, Catarina Martins, Ana Félix

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


OBJECTIVE: Human immunodeficiency virus-infected women have a high incidence of HPV infection, and HIV and HPV coinfection is associated with high incidence of cervical intraepithelial lesions and cervical cancer. This study investigated the ability to detect HIV mRNA in routine screening cervical liquid-based cytology (LBC) samples and its correlation with HPV coinfection and cervical intraepithelial lesions.

METHODS: Liquid-based cytology samples from 80 HIV-infected women under combined antiretroviral therapy (cART) were studied for detection of HIV and HPV mRNA using Aptima® tests and for cytology diagnosis according to the 2014 Bethesda System for Reporting Cervical Cytology. Peripheral blood (PB) HIV mRNAs were assessed by real-time polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR). Statistical analysis used Fisher's exact or Chi-square test to compare frequencies among groups and the Mann-Whitney U test to compare continuous variables.

RESULTS: Human immunodeficiency virus mRNA was present in 21.3% of routine LBC samples in HIV-infected women, 12.5% of which had no detectable PB viral load. Among 10 patients diagnosed with high-grade squamous intraepithelial lesion (HSIL), 50% had detectable HIV viral load. The occurrence of HSIL vs low-grade intraepithelial lesion/negative intraepithelial lesion or malignancy in LBC samples was significantly higher in women with detectable HIV viral load (P = .029).

CONCLUSIONS: Human immunodeficiency virus mRNA was present in routine LBC samples in HIV-positive women under cART. Detection of HIV viral load in LBC is significantly associated with cervical HSIL. This suggests the relevance of HIV mRNA viral load assessment in routine LBC, to evaluate patients' infectious potential and monitor efficacy of the cART scheme.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)640-645
Number of pages6
Issue number5
Early online date29 Apr 2021
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2021


  • cervix
  • cytology
  • HIV
  • HPV
  • HSIL
  • viral load


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