Abstract: Human papillomavirus genotype 16 (HPV16) is by far the genotype most strongly associated with cervical cancer; viral variant and/or viral load of HPV16 could modulate this association. The objective was to determine the association between the viral variant and viral load of HPV16 and the presence of cervical high-grade lesions. This cross-sectional study included all women in whom HPV infection was found by cervical smear during routine gynecologic health checks. Women with single or multiple HPV16 infections (n = 176) were selected for viral variant and viral load analysis. Smear results were classified using the Bethesda system. HPV types were classified according to the International Agency for Research on Cancer. Odds ratios (OR) with their 95% confidence intervals (CI) were estimated by logistic regression, adjusted for age, immigrant status, and coinfection with other high-risk genotypes. No statistically significant associations were found regarding the detected viral variants. A viral load above the median (>1,367.79 copies/cell) was associated with a significant risk of high-grade epithelial lesion or carcinoma, after adjusting for age, immigrant status, coinfections, and viral variant: (adjusted OR 7.89; 95% CI: 2.75-22.68). This relationship showed a statistically significant dose-response pattern after categorizing by viral load tertiles: adjusted OR for a viral load greater than the third tertile was 17.23 (95% CI: 4.20-70.65), with adjusted linear P trend = 0.001. In patients infected with HPV16, viral load is associated with high-grade intraepithelial lesions or cervical carcinoma. This could be useful as prognostic biomarker of neoplastic progression and as screening for cervical cancer.
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