A New Urine Test Could Offer A Non-Invasive Alternative To Pap Smears

by Adam Berry/Getty Images

A simple urine test for human papillomavirus (HPV) could offer a more acceptable, non-invasive alternative to the conventional cervical test and improve screening uptake,according to a study in the British medical journal the bmj.com.

Human papillomavirus (HPV) is one of the most common sexually transmitted infections.

Up to 80% of sexually active women are infected at some point in their lives and infection with specific “high risk” strains of HPV has an established link to cervical cancer.

Current screening by smear test is invasive and time-consuming. In recent years, cervical screening in the UK has fallen below 80%, particularly among women aged 25-30.

In Australia, recent research found the introduction of the Australian-developed HPV vaccine saw a sharp drop in pap smears among young Australian women who receive the vaccination.

A team of researchers based in London and Spain analysed the results of 14 studies involving 1,443 women to determine the accuracy of testing on urine samples compared with cervical samples obtained by a doctor.

Urine HPV testing had an overall sensitivity of 87%, the proportion of positives correctly identified.

“The detection of HPV in urine is non-invasive, easily accessible, and acceptable to women, and a test with these qualities could considerably increase uptake,” say the authors.

The researchers call for further studies.

In an accompanying editorial, researchers at the University of Manchester say urine testing for HPV is a promising screening option which deserves further evaluation.

In well resourced health systems, they suggest self sampling “could be used for women who are reluctant to attend for regular cervical screening”.

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