Stability Study of Cervical Specimens Collected by Swab and Stored Dry Followed by Human Papillomavirus DNA Detection Using the cobas 4800 Test
Safer, more convenient methods for cervical sample collection and storage are necessary to facilitate human papillomavirus (HPV) DNA testing in low-resource settings. Our study aimed to evaluate the stability of cervical specimens collected with dry swabs and stored dry, compared to liquid-based cytology (LBC) samples, as detected by HPV DNA testing. Women with abnormal cytological findings or HPV-positive results at colposcopy were recruited from the West China Second University Hospital, Sichuan University, between October 2013 and March 2014. From each woman, physicians collected cervical specimens with a swab placed into a Sarstedt tube and a CytoBrush placed into LBC medium. Samples were randomly assigned to be stored at uncontrolled ambient temperature for 2, 7, 14, or 28 days and then were tested for 14 high-risk HPV (HR-HPV) types using the cobas HPV test. The rates of agreement between dry swab and LBC samples for any HR-HPV type, HPV16, HPV18, and the 12 pooled HR-HPV types were 93.8%, 97.8%, 99.4%, and 93.2%, respectively, with kappa values of 0.87 (95% confidence interval [CI], 0.83 to 0.91), 0.94 (95% CI, 0.91 to 0.97), 0.94 (95% CI, 0.87 to 1.00), and 0.86 (95% CI, 0.82 to 0.90). The performance of swab samples for detection of cervical precancerous lesions by means of cobas HPV testing was equal to that of LBC samples, even with stratification by storage time. Dry storage of swab-collected cervical samples can last for 1 month without loss of test performance by cobas HPV testing, compared to LBC samples, which may offer a simple inexpensive approach for cervical cancer screening in low-resource settings.
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