Sex Transm Infect 92:19-23 doi:10.1136/sextrans-2014-051977
  • Clinical
  • Original article

Human papillomavirus (HPV) contamination of gynaecological equipment

  1. Patrick Petignat2
  1. 1Faculty of Medicine, University of Geneva, Geneva, Switzerland
  2. 2Department of Gynaecology and Obstetrics, Geneva University Hospitals, Geneva, Switzerland
  3. 3Department of Gynaecology and Obstetrics, Lausanne University Hospital, Lausanne, Switzerland
  4. 4Unilabs SA, Geneva, Switzerland
  5. 5Institute of Microbiology, department of laboratories, Lausanne University Hospital, Lausanne, Switzerland
  6. 6Geneva Foundation for Medical Education and Research, Geneva, Switzerland
  1. Correspondence to Caroline Gallay, Faculty of Medicine, University of Geneva, Rue Michel-Servet 1, Geneva 1206, Switzerland; Caroline.Gallay{at}
  • Received 16 December 2014
  • Revised 6 May 2015
  • Accepted 25 May 2015
  • Published Online First 12 June 2015


Objective The gynaecological environment can become contaminated by human papillomavirus (HPV) from healthcare workers’ hands and gloves. This study aimed to assess the presence of HPV on frequently used equipment in gynaecological practice.

Methods In this cross-sectional study, 179 samples were taken from fomites (glove box, lamp of a gynaecological chair, gel tubes for ultrasound, colposcope and speculum) in two university hospitals and in four gynaecological private practices. Samples were collected with phosphate-buffered saline-humidified polyester swabs according to a standardised pattern, and conducted twice per day for 2 days. The samples were analysed by a semiquantitative real-time PCR. Statistical analysis was performed using Pearson's χ2 test and multivariate regression analysis.

Results Thirty-two (18%) HPV-positive samples were found. When centres were compared, there was a higher risk of HPV contamination in gynaecological private practices compared with hospitals (OR 2.69, 95% CI 1.06 to 6.86). Overall, there was no difference in the risk of contamination with respect to the time of day (OR 1.79, 95% CI 0.68 to 4.69). When objects were compared, the colposcope had the highest risk of contamination (OR 3.02, 95% CI 0.86 to 10.57).

Conclusions Gynaecological equipment and surfaces are contaminated by HPV despite routine cleaning. While there is no evidence that contaminated surfaces carry infectious viruses, our results demonstrate the need for strategies to prevent HPV contamination. These strategies, based on health providers’ education, should lead to well-established cleaning protocols, adapted to gynaecological rooms, aimed at eliminating HPV material.