OBJECTIVES The purpose of the study was to evaluate the mucosal immune response in women affected by primary human papillomavirus (HPV) infection, in comparison with HPV-negative women with no previous history of HPV. METHODS A case-control study comparing the activity of myeloperoxidase (MPO) and lactoferrin (LF) between 19 HPV-positive and 19 HPV-negative women matched for age. Plasmatic and cervicovaginal levels of polymorphonuclear neutrophils (PMN) exhibiting MPO and LF receptors were measured using cytofluorimetric analysis and expressed as mean of percentages. RESULTS Cervicovaginal levels of MPO-/LF- PMN were lower among HPV-negative women, with a mean rate of 18.81% (SD, 21.38), as opposed to a mean rate of 35.56% (SD, 21.02) (P = 0.020) in HPV-positive women. A similar significant difference was not proven in plasma. The mean rates of plasmatic levels of MPO-/LF- PMN were 36.21% (SD, 16.87) and 36.93% (SD, 10.54) (P = 0.875) in cases and controls, respectively. All patients were evaluated 1 year later, and only 6 cases became negative. CONCLUSIONS The presence of MPO-/LF- PMN has been considered as a marker of lower rate of apoptosis of HPV-infected cells. This could explain why HPV-positive women are less capable to deal with a primary infection.