Serum and cervicovaginal IgG immune responses against α7 and α9 HPV in nonvaccinated women at risk for cervical cancer: Implication for catch-up prophylactic HPV vaccination

Cervical cancer associated with high risk-human papillomavirus (HR-HPV) infection is becoming the one of the most common female cancer in many sub-Saharan African countries. First-generation immigrant African women living in Europe are at-risk for cervical cancer, in a context of social vulnerability, with frequent lack of cervical cancer screening and
HPV vaccination.

Our objective was to address immunologically the issue of catch-up prophylactic HPV vaccination in first-generation African immigrant women living in France.

IgG immune responses and cross-reactivities to α7 (HPV-18, -45 and -68) and α9 (HPV-16, -31, -33, -35, -52 and -58) HPV types, including 7 HR-HPV targeted by the Gardasil-9® prophylactic vaccine, were evaluated in paired serum and cervicovaginal secretions (CVS) by HPV L1-virus-like particles-based ELISA. Genital HPV were detected by multiplex real time
PCR (Seegene, Seoul, South Korea).

Fifty-one immigrant women (mean age, 41.7 years; 72.5% HIV-infected) were prospectively included. More than two-third (68.6%) of them carried genital HPV (group I) while 31.4% were negative (group II). The majority (90.2%) exhibited serum IgG to at least one α7/α9 HR-HPV. Serum HPV-specific IgG were more frequently detected in group I than group II
(100% versus 68.7%; P = 0.002). The distribution of serum and genital HPV-specific IgG was similar, but mean number of IgG reactivities to α7/α9 HR-HPV was higher in serum than CVS (5.6 IgG per woman in serum versus 3.2 in CVS; P<0.001). Rates of IgG crossreactivities against HPV different from detected cervicovaginal HPV were higher in serum and CVS in group I than group II. Finally, the majority of groups I and II women (68.6% and
68.7%, respectively) exhibited serum or cervicovaginal IgG to Gardasil-9® HR-HPV, with higher mean rates in group I than group II (6.1 Gardasil-9® HR-HPV per woman versus 1.4; P<0.01). One-third (31.2%) of group II women did not show any serum and genital HPV specific IgG.

Around two-third of first-generation African immigrant women living in France showed frequent ongoing genital HPV infection and high rates of circulating and genital IgG to α7/α9 HPV, generally cross-reacting, avoiding the possibility of catch-up vaccination. Nevertheless, about one-third of women had no evidence of previous HPV infection, or showed only
low levels of genital and circulating HR-HPV-specific IgG and could therefore be eligible for catch-up vaccination.