HPV or Human Papilloma Virus

On October 9th, 2011, Posted by author

Last modified: October 26, 2015

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The HPV or the Human Papilloma Virus causes infection of the cervix in the uterus of women. Persistent infection by this virus or those in the transient stage could lead to the development of precancerous lesions like CIN2 or CIN3 and even invasive cervical cancer Chheda, 2006).

Infection of the HPV occurs in about 60-75% of women who are sexually active as the infection usually spreads through sexual intercourse. Women over 30 years of age are specially vulnerable to this virus.

HPV is classified under two main categories: the Low Risk and the High Risk types. The Low risk types are generally genital warts caused by the 6 and 11 HP Virus. The High Risk categories, which could lead to cervical cancer (Clavel, et al., 2001), belong to the 16, 18, 31, 33, 45, and 56 types of the virus (Chheda, 2006). The DNA of the HPV is detectable in nearly all cervical cancers (Peto, Gilham, Fletcher, & Matthews, 2004).

Several types of cancers are linked to HPV, of which the most common one is cervical cancer (Human Papillomavirus, 2010).Transient HPV occurs in women under 35 years of age that could lead to cancer of the cervix (NHS Cervical Screening Programme). Cervical cancer is the most common type of cancer among women in the developed countries and is the cause for more than 273,000 deaths a year worldwide (Dunleavey, 2009).

The picture below illustrates the diagrammatic representation of the HP Virus, the infection in the cervix, and the stages of the gradual development of cancer. Harald zur Hausen was the pioneer in the discovery of the link between HPV infection and cervical cancer by  locating the virus DNA in the cancer cells. His work is illustrated in the inset in the picture below.


HPV, like all other viruses, is impervious to treatment with drugs or medicines. But effective vaccines like Gardasilhave been developed and recommended for routine administration to all girls between 11 and 12 years of age with three shots being given over a six month period. Young women up to 26 years of age  are also recommended the vaccine to prevent the viral infection (HPV Vaccine Information for Young Women, 2008). Both HPV and the CIN lesions can be prevented through these vaccinations and the occurrence of cervical cancer in women will be greatly reduced in the future generations.

Women with cervical aplasia are treated with LEEP (Loop Electrosurgical Excision Procedure) that involves removing the abnormal cervical tissue using an electrically charged wire loop under local anaesthesia and normally carried out on an outpatient basis in hospitals or in a doctor’s office.

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