Human papillomaviruses (HPVs) are a heterogeneous group of small dsDNA viruses which cause a variety of proliferative epithelial lesions at specific anatomical sites. Although more than 65 different virus types have been cloned and characterized, no uniform classification system exists. In order to classify HPV DNA types, phylogenetic trees were constructed based on nucleotide sequence alignments using parsimony and distance matrix algorithms. The resulting phylogenetic trees provide a classification of the HPVs into specific groups encompassing the known tissue tropism and oncogenic potential of each HPV type. The implications of a phylogenetic taxonomy on the diagnostic detection of HPVs and the concept of different HPV species are discussed.
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