HPV question

Dom Spinella dspinella at chugaibio.com
Thu Jan 22 10:20:04 EST 1998

> Human Papilloma Virus
> A recently published article stated that >90% of cervical cancers can be
> attributed to HPV therefore various pharmaceutical giants are developing
> a vaccine... etc. etc. etc.
> Now excuse my ignorance (microbiologist!), one can presume the vaccine
> promotes the production of anti HPV antibodies in the blood stream!
> Conversely then, instead of conducting smears, could one not just
> perform an ELISA test (or similar) to detect HPV antibodies (on non
> vaccinated individuals). Positive results = cervical cancer!
> Am I right or just plain stupid? Please correct me!!!
> Regards
> Andy

Actually, what you've done is to commit a common logic error: Yes, 90%
of cervical cancers are connected to HPV infection, but I believe only a
relatively small proportion of HPV-infected women actually get cervical
cancer.  Hence, your conclusion that positive ELISA for HPV must
indicate cervical cancer is incorrect (although it would certainly
diagnose a risk factor).  In other words, cervical cancer = HPV (at
p=0.9) but the converse, HPV = cancer does not necessarily follow.
Cheers. --Dom Spinella

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