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Two-Thirds of U.S. Adults May Carry HPV

But study finds only 4 of 103 people whose DNA was tested had the cancer-causing strain of the virus


"Our study offers initial and broad evidence of a seemingly 'normal' HPV viral biome in people that does not necessarily cause disease and that could very well mimic the highly varied bacterial environment in the body, or microbiome, which is key to maintaining good health," senior study investigator Dr. Zhiheng Pei, a pathologist and associate professor, said in a news release from the NYU Langone Medical Center.

Lead investigator and research scientist Yingfei Ma added that the "HPV 'community' in healthy people is surprisingly more vast and complex than previously thought."

The study was scheduled for presentation Tuesday at the annual meeting of the American Society for Microbiology in Boston. The data and conclusions should be considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.

Ma said in the news release that "much further monitoring and research is needed to determine how the various noncancer-causing HPV genotypes interact with the cancer-causing strains, such as genotypes 16 and 18, and what causes these strains to trigger cancer."

Pei pointed out that getting vaccinated against types 16 and 18 is still "a good idea."

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved two HPV vaccines. Gardasil is approved for use in people ages 9 to 26, for the prevention of cervical, anal, vulvar and vaginal cancer, as well as genital warts caused by HPV infection. Cervarix is approved for use in females ages 9 to 25 for the prevention of cervical cancer and precancerous cervical lesions caused by HPV infection. Both vaccines are highly effective in preventing infections with HPV types 16 and 18. Gardasil also prevents infection with HPV types 6 and 11, according to the FDA.

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