Carcinoma of the conjunctiva and HIV infection in Uganda and Malawi

K. M. Waddell, S. Lewallen, S. B. Lucas, C. Atenyi-Agaba, C. S. Herrington, G. Liomba

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    Aim-To investigate the association of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV infection and carcinoma of the conjunctiva in Africa, and the role of human papilloma virus type 16 (HPV-16).

    Methods-Patients in Uganda and Malawi presenting to eye clinics with lesions suspicious of carcinoma were studied. Pathological confirmation of eye lesions was sought. HIV testing of patients who were biopsied and, in Uganda, of matched case control subjects was carried out as was testing of a sample of fixed biopsies for HPV-16 by polymerase chain reaction (PCR). The HIV-1 serology, histopathology of conjunctival biopsies (conjunctival intraepithelial neoplasia (GIN), invasive carcinoma, other lesions), and prevalence of HPV-16 infection were determined.

    Results-Of Ugandan patients, 27/38 (71%) with carcinoma (27 invasive carcinoma, 11 GIN) were HIV positive compared with 12/76 (16%) of controls (odds ratio 13, 95% confidence interval 5-38). The calculated population aetiological fraction of carcinoma associated with HN was 66%. Of 32 Malawian patients (20 invasive carcinoma, 12 CIN), 25/29 tested (86%) were HIV positive. HPV-16 infection was found in 7/20 (35%) of carcinoma samples, 0/9 pingueculae, and 2/6 conjunctivitis samples.

    Conclusions-HIV infection is strongly associated with an apparent increase in the incidence of conjunctival carcinoma in Africa. While ultraviolet light is probably the prime risk factor and HPV-16 is implicated in a proportion of cases, the interactions of ultraviolet light, HIV, HPVs, and other factors are unclear in the pathogenesis of carcinoma. The disease represents another model of multifactorial epithelial carcinogenesis.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)503-508
    Number of pages6
    JournalBritish Journal of Ophthalmology
    Issue number6
    Publication statusPublished - Jun 1996


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