Research Article: Identification of HPV Types and Mycobacterium Tuberculosis Complex in Historical Long-Term Preserved Formalin Fixed Tissues in Different Human Organs

Date Published: January 23, 2017

Publisher: Public Library of Science

Author(s): Maja Hühns, Andreas Erbersdobler, Annette Obliers, Paula Röpenack, Mark Spigelman.


University anatomical-pathological collections represent huge sources of human tissues and preparations from a variety of different diseases. With the help of modern genetic and histological methods, preserved fixed tissues from pathological collections can be used to re-evaluate former diagnoses. We analysed 25 specimens from our pathological collection with ages ranging from 78 to 112 years. The tissues originated from the oral cavity, lip, tongue, lung, bone, kidney, spleen, thymus, larynx, lymph node, penis and uterine cervix with an original diagnosis of epithelial cancers or tuberculosis. Amplifiable DNA was extracted and in epithelial cancers, potential HPV infection was investigated. Specimens with an original diagnosis of tuberculosis were examined for mycobacterial infection. The tissues were also examined using modern histological methods. Our data showed that in 24/25 specimens the histological structure was preserved and in 10/11 specimens the diagnosis of squamous cell carcinoma could be confirmed. Additionally, HPV type 16 was detected in 8 specimens. The histological pattern of tuberculosis was found in 11/14 specimens and the Mycobacterium tuberculosis complex was ascertained in four specimens. Our study showed that pathogens such as HPV or Mycobacterium tuberculosis can be detected in historical pathological preparations, and that these collections are suitable for further epidemiological research.

Partial Text

University anatomical-pathological collections contain a huge quantity of human tissue and preparations from a variety of different diseases, some of which are uncommon today. Therefore, they are now of enormous value with regard to education and research. However, working with old pathological preparations raised several potential difficulties: First, since many pathological collections date from a time when most diagnoses were made macroscopically and without histology, it is questionable whether all original diagnoses comply with modern standards. Thus, it is important to verify the original diagnosis using modern histological methods before these preparations can be used for education or research. Second, these specimens have been preserved for many years in solutions such as ethanol or formalin which could have potentially changed the molecular structure. Therefore, it is unclear whether these old preparations are actually suitable for examination by modern laboratory methods.

In this study, we investigated 25 specimens of TB and HPV-related cancer to determine whether the microscopic structure was sufficiently preserved to allow histological evaluation and whether molecular detection of respective pathogens was still feasible in long-term preserved tissue.