Background: Oral HPV infections detected six-months apart were compared to those detected bi-weekly, in an HIV-positive cohort, during the intervening months to elucidate systematic biases introduced into natural history studies by sampling interval. Methods: Fourteen consecutive oral rinse samples were collected every two weeks for six months from an HIV-positive cohort (n = 112) and evaluated for the presence of 37 HPV types. The cumulative probability of type-specific HPV detection at visits 1 through 14 was determined as a function of infection categorized at visits 1 and 14 as persistent, newly detected, cleared or absent. Transition models were used to evaluate the effect of HPV viral load (measured by RT-PCR for HPV 16, 18, 31, 33, 35) on infection persistence. Results: The average point prevalence of oral HPV infection was similar at two-week and six-month sampling intervals (45% vs. 47%, p = 0.52), but cumulative prevalence was higher with the former (82% vs. 53%, p,0.001) as was the cumulative prevalence of type-specific infections (9.3% vs 3.8%, p,0.0001). Type-specific infections persistent under a six-month sampling interval had a high probability (0.93, 95%CI 0.83-0.98) of detection at 50% or more of the intervening visits and infections that were absent had a high probability (0.94, 95% CI 0.93-0.95) of no interval detection. The odds of detection at any visit significantly increased for each unit increase in HPV viral load at the previous visit. Conclusions: Six-month sampling is appropriate to model factors associated with type-specific oral HPV infection persistence but may misclassify HPV-exposed individuals as unexposed.
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