An examination of HPV16 natural immunity in men who have sex with men (MSM) in the HPV in men (HIM) study

Daniel C. Beachler, Ligia A. Pinto, Troy J. Kemp, Alan G. Nyitray, Allan Hildesheim, Raphael Viscidi, John Schussler, Aimee R. Kreimer, Anna R. Giuliano

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Background: Evidence suggests that natural antibodies developed after HPV16 infection may protect some women but not men against subsequent HPV16 reacquisition. Less is known whether antibodies developed following HPV16 infection are protective among men who have sex with men (MSM). Methods: Four hundred seventy-five MSM from the Human Papillomavirus Infection in Men (HIM) study were tested for serum antibodies to HPV16 L1 using enzyme-linked immuno-sorbent assays, and for anal and genital HPV16 DNA using PCR consensus primer system (PGMY 09/11). Adjusted Cox regression was used to evaluate whether baseline HPV16 seropositivity impacts subsequent genital or anal HPV16 DNA. Results: The risk of subsequent genital HPV16 [aHR ¼ 1.05, 95% confidence interval (CI) ¼ 0.66–1.68] and anal HPV16 infections among MSM (aHR ¼ 2.34, 95% CI ¼ 0.92–5.98) was similar or nonsignificantly higher in HPV16-seropositive than HPV16-seronegative MSM. The risk of genital HPV16 was also similar between HPV16-seronegative and HPV16-seropositive MSM in the highest tertile of HPV16 antibody levels and when restricting to those with new sex partners during follow-up (P > 0.20). Among the 118 MSM who were HPV16 seropositive, 90% remained HPV16 seropositive up to 4 years later. When tested together, MSM with the highest antibody titers (top tertile) had similar levels to females (mean ¼ 130.3 vs. 134.5 EU/mL, P ¼ 0.84). Conclusions: Despite years of HPV16 seropositivity persistence and antibody titers comparable with females, this study suggested no evidence of HPV16 natural antibodies protecting against subsequent genital or anal HPV16 infection in MSM. Impact: This could help partially explain the high incidence of genital and anal HPV16 infection and related anal cancer seen in middle-aged and older MSM.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)496-502
Number of pages7
JournalCancer Epidemiology Biomarkers and Prevention
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2018

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Epidemiology
  • Oncology


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