What is HPV?
Human Papillomavirus (HPV) are DNA viruses (from family of papillomavirus family) with more than 100 subtypes of which more than 40 infect the skin and mucosa of the anal-genitalia region. HPV virus is transmitted by direct contact during sexual intercourse (including anal and oral sex) with affected partner. The incubation period can range from weeks to years.
People with multiple partners are at higher risk of contracting HPV and have persistent HPV infection. HPV infections is the commonest STD which causes Genital warts and affect almost 30 million worldwide. In fact it affects more than 50% of sexually active individuals with highest rates among those age 20-25 (according to US statistics).
Clinical implications of HPV
Most people with HPV infection do not have any symptoms and almost 90% infections will resolve by itself by 2 years. However, in certain individuals HPV infection persist and cause serious clinical conditions.
HPV infection is known to have cause Genital Warts, a sexually transmitted disease. It has also been known to be associated with genitalia cancers like cervical cancer, vaginal cancer, penis cancer and also anal cancer. It has also been associated with non-genitalia cancers like oropharyngeal (cancer at back of throat including tonsils and base of tongue) and esophageal cancers. It can also cause a condition calledrecurrent respiratory papillomatosis (RRP) in which warts grow in the throat. All these medication conditions associated with HPV infection will be described in details in other pages on this website.
The subtypes that cause genital warts are different from those that cause cancers.
Laboratory test for HPV
Currently HPV DNA testing can be done with 2 methods namely Hybrid Capture II (HC II) and the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) enzyme immunosorbent assay. These tests are highly sensitive and are useful screening tools for HPV detection and also for post-treatment follow up for patients with cervical intraepithelial neoplasia (CIN).
For those with florid signs of genital warts, confirmation test for HPV is not necessary. However they should be screened for other co-existingsexually transmitted diseases.