Human papillomavirus infections are caused by a group of viruses categorized as human papillomavirus (HPV). HPV is one of the frequently occurring sexually transmitted infections. In the United States, almost 80 million people or 1 in every four individuals are known to carry HPV virus. There are almost 100 variants of the virus present and are responsible for infection at different body parts. HPV viruses are known to enter the body through several means like a small cut in skin or abrasion, direct skin contact, and direct sexual contact. Most of the cases, there is no visible symptoms for the infected individuals.
However, when symptoms develop, warts can be seen on different parts of the body depending on the variety of virus involved like
Genital warts- appearing as flat lesions or protrusion on the genital area.
Common warts- rough bumps like structure present on hand, elbow or fingers.
Flat warts- small darker than skin, appeared as small flat or slightly raised structure on face or legs.
Treatment option for warts
Warts developed by HPV mostly go away if the infected individual is a child, but in general, the virus remains in the body and can reappear in the same area of prior infection or a new place. Medications for warts generally involved is direct applications on infected warts, although takes a longer time to diminish. Common drugs used for warts treatments include
• Salicylic acid- this is the common ingredients which are present in over the counter drugs which is used to remove wart layers. However, salicylic acid can cause skin irritations sometimes.
• Imiquimod- this prescription drug is used to induce an immune response against HPV. However, side effects like swelling or redness in the infection area are common side effects.
• Podofilox- this drug is useful for the destruction of wart tissues present in the genital areas. Pain and itching are important side effects.
• Trichloroacetic acid- this is used as a chemical treatment to burn warts present in genitals, pal or soles and accompanied by mild itching.
In addition to tropical drugs, warts sometimes also removed by surgical procedures, such as-
• Electrocautery- where the infected areas are burned with electrical current.
• Cryotherapy- where freezing methods using liquid nitrogen is utilized.
• Surgical removal of the warts
• Laser therapy for the removal of warts.
HPV and Cervical cancer
In addition to warts formation, frequent HPV infection is known to develop cervical cancer in females. As HPV is one of the common infections found in the reproductive tract, almost 99% of the cervical cancer occurrence can be linked to the presence of HPV infection. Among women, cervical cancer is the frequently occurring cancer worldwide. HPV type 16 and 18 are commonly involved in cervical cancer progression. Usually, HPV infection gets cleared up by their own, and precancerous lesion formation also dissolves. However, if the infection becomes chronic, then in 15-20 years’ time frame the precancerous lesion generates cervical cancer. However, for women with a weak immune system the time frame is 5-10 years. Risk factors of HPV associated cervical cancer and several situations which increase the risk of HPV associated cervical cancer are
• Presence of multiple sexual partners.
• Use of tobacco
• Immune suppression: HIV patients are more prone to get HPV infection.
Sexual intercourse at an early age.
Cervical cancer screening process – To reduce the mortality rate and detect cervical cancer at earliest, screening methods to detect the presence of the HPV virus is recommended for the females in the age group of 30-49. There are three different methods used for the screening purpose, such as-
• Conventional methods like PAP test and LBC or liquid-based cytology test.4
• Visual identification methods for confirmation of HPV.
• Identification of HPV patient who got infected by HPV types of high risk.
In the United States, HPV is known to cause 34000 variants of cancer in both male and females. Nearly, 31000 cases are preventable by the use of HPV vaccine. There are three types of vaccines available in the market against HPV infection which are Gardasil, Gardasil 9 and Cervarix. These vaccines are capable of preventing infection against HPV type 16 and 18 which is responsible for 70% of the occurrence of cervical cancer. These vaccines also provide immunity against the precancerous lesion formation. Gardasil and Gardasil 9 are also useful for the protection against genital warts formation. According to CDC or Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, it is necessary to administrate two shots of HPV vaccine for the young boys and girls aged around 11-12 as a routine application. World health organization or WHO recommends HPV vaccination to young girls as a mode of precaution against cervical cancer.