If you’re wondering how the HPV DNA test works, you’ve landed at the right place. The test proves to be quite useful in detecting 24 high-risk HPV types with the help of PCR technology. In this article, we will learn about this technology, its working principle and its effectiveness in identifying HPV infection in women.

What Is PCR Technology?

Polymerase Chain Reaction (abbreviated as PCR) is one of the most revolutionary technologies in molecular biology. It has such a profound impact on scientific advances that its creator, Kary B. Mullis was awarded the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1993.1

PCR technology revolves around the detection and multiplication of small and specific segments of any desired DNA. Simply put, it is used to find the needle in the haystack of the DNA present in the cells.

At LifeCell, we use the Real-Time PCR technology to check for the presence of high-risk HPV strains that may cause cervical cancer. It is known as the most sensitive method to detect cervicovaginal HPV.2

While the conventional PCR process quantifies the amount of target HPV DNA at the end-point, the real-time variation measures and reports the results after each amplification cycle. The use of RT-PCR enables easier, rapid and precise detection of the target HPV genotype in real-time and report the results for quick analysis.3

How Does PCR Work?

PCR's entire cycle procedure is automated and can be finished in a matter of hours. It is controlled by a device known as a thermocycler, which is set to change the reaction's temperature every few minutes to enable DNA replication (the process where the DNA makes a copy of itself).4 The entire cycle is repeated as many as 20 or 30 times, which results in the creation of over a million exact copies of the sample.

The Taqman Probe Chemistry-based RT PCR method used in the lab is highly specific and used fluorescent dyes to analyse the amount of target HPV target genotypes. The PCR technology amplifies a DNA segment through three distinct temperature-controlled steps.5

  • In the first step, the sample is heated to 95°C approximately. This action results in DNA denaturation, i.e. separation into two pieces of single-stranded DNA.
  • In the next step, HPV-specific primers bind to the sample DNA at a lower temperature, around 55°C.
  • Lastly, the temperature of the mixture is increased to 72°C and a special enzyme called the Taq Polymerase helps build two new complementary strands of the targeted HPV DNA sequence. Post that, the amplified samples are scanned thoroughly to check for potential HPV infection.

Is PCR Technology Right For Detecting HPV?

HPV is one of the most frequently sexually transmitted infections. It is also the major cause of cervical cancer. However, it develops in a gradual manner and might not display any apparent symptoms that can be detected by the Pap Smear test.6

PCR technology has multiple benefits for HPV testing. It helps detect the HPV virus as well as classify the strain causing the infection. An HPV DNA test done using PCR technology provides objective results that leave no scope for confusion.7 LifeCell’s HPV DNA Test uses this technology to screen for 24 high-risk genotypes including HPV 16 and 18 which are mainly responsible for causing 70% of cervical cancer cases.8

Therefore, a PCR test is not only useful to detect the presence of HPV but also for differentiating HPV strains and identifying the exact one.9 This can be of great help in choosing the right course of treatment and eliminates the need for invasive techniques like colposcopy to get answers related to HPV.7

WHO recommends regular screening for cervical cancer through HPV DNA Tests for women aged 30 and above at an interval of 5 to 10 years. They also add that self-collected samples can be used for HPV DNA testing.10 

Wrapping Up

In simple terms, PCR technology works as a photocopying machine, but on a molecular scale to amplify DNA. It has multiple applications in the field of biotechnology. One of the notable applications includes the HPV DNA Test.

PCR helps detect the presence of HPV and amplifies the virus present in the sample. The results provide an accurate analysis of samples for the detection of HPV infection. LifeCell’s HPV DNA test reports detect the exact genotype for major high-risk HPV strains which leads to cervical cancer (HPV 16, 18 & 45). In addition, the results will notify the presence of HPV infection in the case of 21 other high-risk HPV strains that can also lead to genital warts through PCR technology. Hence, the test equips you with accurate and ample information related to HPV infection for treatment.

References:

  1. https://www.genome.gov/about-genomics/fact-sheets/Polymerase-Chain-Reaction-Fact-Sheet 
  2. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/9163434 
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/probe/docs/techqpcr/ 
  4. https://www.yourgenome.org/facts/what-is-dna-replication/ 
  5. https://screening.iarc.fr/doc/HPV-DNA-Testing-Issues.pdf 
  6. https://www.cancer.gov/publications/dictionaries/cancer-terms/def/cervical-cancer 
  7. https://www.who.int/news/item/06-07-2021-new-recommendations-for-screening-and-treatment-to-prevent-cervical-cancer 
  8. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6373819/# 
  9. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1186996/ 
  10. https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/cervical-cancer