Open Access Highly Accessed Open Badges Research article

Detection of infectious organisms in archival prostate cancer tissues

Melissa A Yow1, Sepehr N Tabrizi23, Gianluca Severi45, Damien M Bolton6, John Pedersen7, Anthony Longano8, Suzanne M Garland23, Melissa C Southey1 and Graham G Giles45*

Author Affiliations

1 Genetic Epidemiology Laboratory, Department of Pathology, University of Melbourne, Melbourne, VIC 3010, Australia

2 Molecular Microbiology Laboratory, Department of Microbiology and Infectious Diseases, Bio 21 Institute, Royal Women’s Hospital, Parkville, VIC 3052, Australia

3 Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, University of Melbourne, Melbourne, VIC 3010, Australia

4 Cancer Epidemiology Centre, Cancer Council Victoria, Melbourne, VIC 3004, Australia

5 Centre for Epidemiology and Biostatistics, School of Population Health, University of Melbourne, Melbourne, VIC 3010, Australia

6 Department of Surgery, University of Melbourne, Austin Health, Heidelberg, VIC 3084, Australia

7 TissuPath, Mount Waverley, VIC 3049, Australia

8 Department of Anatomical Pathology, Monash Medical Centre, Clayton, VIC 3168, Australia

For all author emails, please log on.

BMC Cancer 2014, 14:579  doi:10.1186/1471-2407-14-579

Published: 9 August 2014



Seroepidemiological studies have reported associations between exposure to sexually transmitted organisms and prostate cancer risk. This study sought DNA evidence of candidate organisms in archival prostate cancer tissues with the aim of assessing if a subset of these cancers show any association with common genital infections.


221 archival paraffin-embedded tissue blocks representing 128 histopathologically confirmed prostate cancers comprising 52 “aggressive” (Gleason score ≥ 7) and 76 “non-aggressive” (Gleason score ≤ 6) TURP or radical prostatectomy specimens were examined, as well as unaffected adjacent tissue when available. Representative tissue sections were subjected to DNA extraction, quality tested and screened by PCR for HSV-1, HSV-2, XMRV, BKV, HPV, Chlamydia trachomatis, Ureaplasma parvum, Ureaplasma urealyticum, Mycoplasma genitalium, and Trichomonas vaginalis.


195 of 221 DNA samples representing 49 “aggressive” and 66 “non-aggressive” prostate cancer cases were suitable for analysis after DNA quality assessment. Overall, 12.2% (6/49) aggressive and 7.6% (5/66) non-aggressive cases were positive for any of the candidate organisms. Mycoplasma genitalium DNA was detected in 4/66 non-aggressive, 5/49 aggressive cancers and in one cancer-unaffected adjacent tissue block of an aggressive case. Ureaplasma urealyticum DNA was detected in 0/66 non-aggressive and 1/49 aggressive cancers and HSV DNA in 1/66 non-aggressive and 0/49 aggressive cancers. This study did not detect BKV, XMRV, T. vaginalis, U. parvum, C. trachomatis or HPV DNA.


The low prevalence of detectable microbial DNA makes it unlikely that persistent infection by the selected candidate microorganisms contribute to prostate cancer risk, regardless of tumour phenotype.

Prostate cancer; Sexually transmitted infection; Infection; qPCR