Human papillomaviruses (HPVs) are major pathogens associated with the development of cancer of the uterine cervix, the most common malignant tumour of women world-wide. Reliable diagnosis of HPV infection, particularly the ‘high-risk’ types (16/18), may facilitate early identification of ‘high-risk’ populations for developing cervical cancer and may augment the sensitivity and specificity of primary cervical cancer screening programmes by complementing the conventional Pap test. A simple paper smear method has been developed for dry collection, transport and storage of cervical smears/scrapes at room temperature for subsequent detection of HPV DNA by PCR assay. Imprint biopsies, blood and fine-needle aspirates were also collected by this method. The cervical scrapes or other body fluids were smeared (within 0.5–1 cm diameter) and dried on to sterile small slides made of Whatman 3MM filter paper, and stored individually at room temperature or at 4°C. A small piece (2–3 mm) of the paper smear was punched or cut out with a sterile surgical blade, boiled in an eppendorf tube containing 50 μl of distilled water for 5 min and used directly for PCR amplification. The quality and quantity of DNA derived from paper smears and the results of PCR amplifications for HPV type 16, BRCA1 and p53 genes were identical to those obtained from the same samples following collection in PBS, storage (−70°C) and phenol-chloroform-based DNA extraction. DNA was stable in the paper smears for up to a year, whether stored at room temperature or at 4°C. This method is simple, rapid and cost-effective, and can be effectively employed for large-scale population screening, especially for regions where the specimens are to be transported from distant places to the laboratory.


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