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70 percent of Americans infected with HPV, Study
70 percent of Americans infected with HPV, Study

70 percent of Americans infected with HPV, Study

A third of healthy adult Americans are infected with a strain of human papillomavirus (HPV), a common sexually transmitted disease known to cause throat and cervical cancer, as well as genital warts.

However, genetic analysis by researchers at NYU Langone Medical Centre, showed that fewer than 4% are infected with a cancer-causing strain of the virus, the rest having “harmless” types of HPV.

Yingfei Ma, PhD, and colleagues from NYU Langone Medical Center in New York City analyzed data from tissue samples of four organs collected from 103 healthy men and women ages 18–80. The data was publically available via the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Human Microbiome Project. Using a bioinformatics software, the researchers were able to remove all human DNA sequences in the data and evaluate for HPV DNA. HPV was detected in 69% of participants, with the presence of 109 of the 148 known HPV types. HPV infections were in the skin (61%), vagina (41%), mouth (30%), and gut (17%). Of those with HPV, 59% had infection in only one organ, 31% in two organs, and 10% in three organs.

The most varied HPV strains were seen in skin samples, with 80 strains of HPV detected that included 40 found exclusively in the skin followed by vaginal tissue (43 strains, 20 exclusive), mouth tissue (33 strains, 5 exclusive), and gut tissue (6 strains, none exclusive). Only four of the individuals had either of the two HPV strains linked to some forms of cervical cancer, throat cancers, and genital warts.

Until additional information on the benefits or harm of many of the HPV strains becomes available, the study authors encourage vaccination against HPV types 16 and 18. Their future research plans include investigating the role of non-cancer-causing HPV strains on cancers of the cervix, mouth, and skin, as well as developing improved diagnostic tests.


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