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WHO HPV Reference Laboratory

Cervical cancer is the second leading cause of cancer deaths in women worldwide, with about 250'000 deaths per year and 500'000 new cervical cancer cases each year. Virtually all cervical cancers are attributable to infection with a virus belonging to the high-risk subset of human papillomavirus (HPV) types, with HPV16 and HPV18 being the most frequent cancer-associated types (~70%). Prophylactic vaccination against HPV would be an effective strategy to prevent cervical cancer. The leading prophylactic vaccine candidates are subunit HPV like particles (VLP) administered by intramuscular injections. VLPs induce type-specific HPV-neutralizing antibodies and prevent persistent type-specific HPV infection and associated lesions. The two vaccines that are available include VLPs of those two most frequent oncogenic HPVs: HPV16 and HPV18 (Gardasil® from Merck/SPMSD and Cervarix® from GlaxoSmithKline).

The WHO has elected the Institute of Microbiology to serve as a regional/Europe human papillomavirus (HPV) reference laboratory to provide expert technical and theoretical advice in HPV genotyping and in assays of HPV16 / 18 neutralizing antibodies. This is part of the WHO initiative for Vaccine Research (IVR) in relation to the introduction of prophylactic HPV vaccines against cervical cancer.

The reference laboratory is headed by Denise Nardelli Haefliger, who is responsible of a research group on HPV vaccine development, and Roland Sahli, who is in charge of R&D in viral diagnostics and of HPV diagnostics.

To contact us

Name Email
Denise Nardelli-Haefliger, PhD
Roland Sahli, PhD


Name Email
Christine Estrade, technician in charge of HPV DNA typing



Date Link
December 2010 Publication of the WHO HPV Laboratory Manual ( 2.5 Mo)
July 2011 WHO HPV LabNet - Newsletter 08 ( 830 Ko)
October 2011 The PGMY-CHUV assay is now published in the Journal of Clinical Microbiology
January 2012 International collaborative proficiency study of Human Papillomavirus type 16 serology
February 2014 Comparison of the PGMY-CHUV assay with the Seegene Anyplex II HPV28 assay

Last Update on 02.05.2014 - Publication credits - Legal information