London, September 22 : A new test to identify women with cervical disease "substantially" more accurately than the current methods may soon be available, with a new test for HPV (human papillomavirus) giving promising results in its first ever trial.
The test for HPV, the primary cause of cervical cancer, is being developed by QIAGEN NV in partnership with PATH, which receives funding for this project from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
The careHPV test is being designed particularly for use in regions of the world with scarce resources.
A research article published in the journal Lancet Oncology reveals that the trial involved 2,500 women age 30-54, in mostly rural areas of China.
The write-up further states that the test produces rapid, accurate results, yet is also simple to run, requires minimal infrastructure, and will be affordable for public-health programs in countries with scarce healthcare resources.
The product is expected to available for pilot programs early in 2009, and more widely in the second half of that year.
The article also reveals that careHPV's ability to identify women who have moderate or severe cervical disease, also called CIN2+, was found to be significantly higher than that of visual inspection with acetic acid (VIA) - a procedure in which a woman's cervix is painted with vinegar to highlight any abnormal areas present, then visually examined by a doctor or nurse.
The new test was even found to be more accurate than the newer, liquid-based Pap testing, which requires trained technicians to interpret and is the primary screening tool in many countries.
The careHPV test can be conducted by workers with minimal healthcare training and education.
Once collected, samples of vaginal or cervical cells are prepared for analysis using a kit of reagents that contains its own water supply. The testing itself is conducted on easily portable equipment and will run on batteries.
"In countries with scarce resources, women often live in environments with few amenities or healthcare staff. In this study, the careHPV test was effectively run by inexperienced, newly trained, minimally educated technicians under difficult conditions of temperature, humidity, lighting and space," said Dr. Attila Lorincz, senior author of the study and a professor of molecular epidemiology at Barts and the London School of Medicine, as well as London's Queen Mary College.
"Another advantage of careHPV is that it can produce results within two and a half hours, allowing treatment to be administered during the same visit - a critical requirement when women would likely not be able to return for follow-up care if sent home after their exam," Dr. Lorincz added.