Canterbury Health Laboratories (CHL) Microbiology is
trialling a new testing method for identifying active Human Papillomavirus
(HPV) infections that may lead to the development of cervical cancer.
The current method used by laboratories nationally
involves looking for the presence of HPV in a cervical sample, as part of a
routine cervical smear for women aged over 30 years.
The Medical Laboratory Scientist leading this evaluation
project, Dr Rachel Lyman, says while this method looks for the HPV virus, it
is unable to identify those patients who are more likely to progress on to
CHL is currently evaluating a new method looking at an
indicator for progression to cancer rather than just the presence of the
“We are testing 500 samples for HPV by both testing
methods – which is how we are working to evaluate the effectiveness and
potential of this new method,” Dr Lyman says.
She says the new method being evaluated does have the
potential to alleviate unnecessary psychological distress caused to those
women who receive a positive HPV test and then go on to clear the
CHL is a complete diagnostic reference and research
laboratory owned by Canterbury District Health Board. CHL has a long standing
history with the cervical screening programme. It was the first laboratory to
provide liquid based cytology free of charge to patients in New Zealand, as well
as the first laboratory to provide an automated cervical screening service to assist the diagnosis of abnormal cervical smears.
HPV is a viral infection which can be sexually
transmitted. There are many different types of HPV but only a few types are
considered ‘high risk, in that they may lead to abnormal cell changes in the
cervix. The vast majority of women with HPV infection never get abnormal
cervical smears or cervical cancer.
There is a HPV vaccine that protects against four strains
of HPV - two which cause most cervical cancer cases and two others that cause
almost all genital wart cases. The vaccine is available free to girls
aged12years old and over from their General Practice team
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