The Health Research Human Papillomavirus Biology Essay


The Human Papillomavirus is more commonly known and referred to as HPV. HPV is made up of groups of viruses that infect the skin. There are more than 150 different types of HPV, also known as strains. Some of these strains of HPV produce warts. Warts are non-cancerous skin growths that can appear on different parts of a children's or adult's body. These different types of warts caused by the HPV virus includes; common warts, foot or plantar warts, and flat warts. According to Stanford University, strains 2 and 7 cause the disease of common warts, strains 1, 2, and 4 cause plantar warts, and strains 3, and 10 cause flat warts. Warts are common in children; some research suggests that up to 1 in 5 children have warts (Better Health Channel). "Between 10% and 20% of children have common skin warts, girls get more warts that boys, warts are most prevalent in children between the ages of 12 and 16, warts are contagious, but typically harmless" (WebMD). Warts are communicable and can be spread from person to person.

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Although these common warts are harmless, "some types of HPV may cause genital warts, while other types of genital HPV are linked to abnormal cell changes on the (woman's) cervix (detected through Pap test) that can lead to cervical cancer" (American Social Health Association). 20 million people-both men and women- estimated to be currently infected with genital HPV. "Most cases of HPV are found in people aged 15 to 25" (HPVInfo). According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, genital HPV is the most common sexually transmitted disease. According to CDC researcher, Dr. Sara Forhan, out of the 838 teenage girls aged 14 to 19 that she conducted, 18% of the girls had the HPV virus. Also, this research revealed that at least 1 in 4 teenage American girls have a sexually transmitted disease. I think this is why teenage boy and girls need to become knowledgeable of HPV because even if sexually active teens use a condom, it does not guarantee complete protection against HPV. Genital HPV is communicable. Over 40 strains of HPV are sexually transmitted. "HPV can be passed during vaginal, anal, and oral sex and through skin-to-skin genital contact or rubbing" (Brown University). Also, a HPV infected pregnant mother, may spread HPV to her infant during childbirth.

The history of HPV is fairly new and recent and conducted in the 20th century. The HPV Vaccine was just introduced in America in the year 2006. "In 1911 Peyton Rous made the startling discovery that a virus could cause cancer" (The Rockefeller University). This was the beginning of studies being done on warts. In the 1930's Peyton Rous and his colleague Richard Shope, "discovered another tumor caused by a virus-a papilloma, or wart, found in rabbits." Harald zur Hausen, a German researcher, studied plantar warts, genital warts, and cervical cancer biopsies. Harald zur Hausen and his colleague, Lutz Gissmann, discovered that HPV strains 16 and 18 are linked to cervical cancer. Harald zur Hausen received a Nobel Prize in 2008 for his thesis from 1976 connecting strains in HPV to cervical cancers (NobelPrize). "Zur Hausen and Gissmann's findings paved the way for many subsequent groundbreaking studies, notably, the development of Gardasil, which in 2006 became the first preventive vaccine for cervical cancer to be approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration" (Harvard University).

"Most people who get the HPV virus don't have any signs or symptoms. And, most people will never know they have been infected by the HPV virus" (HPVInfo). For example, a child may hold hands with a child that has a wart, and the non-infected child's body may naturally fight off the HPV virus. However, a child may contact the HPV virus by sharing a hand-towel that a child with a wart on his/her hand used. A children or teenagers may become infected with common, plantar (foot), and/or flat warts (these warts are not sexually transmitted) by touching a wart on another person's body or by touching something that a person with warts has touched. Sometimes there may be no signs or symptoms of common warts in children and teens, and the virus may just stay dormant in the child. The characteristics of a wart depend on the type, but can include:

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A small, raised bump may appear on the skin.

The average size can range from one to 10 millimeters.

The wart may have a rough or smooth surface.

Warts can occur singly or in clusters.

In some cases, the wart may itch. (

Although common warts do not have any medical concerns, children and teenagers may feel embarrassed or self-conscious about their wart. Warts may also feel uncomfortable or painful if scraped. Warts are not fatal and they typically go away on their own without any medical treatment.

The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, states that a person with genital HPV infections may not have any signs and symptoms that he/she may see or feel. Teenagers are a risk because they may be practicing unsafe sex and pass the HPV virus to their sexual partner. Teens may think because they do not see any visual genital warts that their bodies are safe from diseases and viruses. "Genital warts are soft, moist, or flesh colored and appear in the genital area within weeks or months after infection. They sometimes appear in clusters that resemble cauliflower-like bumps, and are raised or flat, small or large. Genital warts can show up in women on the vulva and cervix, and inside and surrounding the vagina and anus. In men, genital warts can appear on the scrotum or penis. There are cases where genital warts have been found on the thigh and groin" (NIAID). The type of the HPV viruses that causes genital warts is considered low-risk and they are not considered fatal. Genital warts can progress and "cause sores and bleeding" (Brown University). They can also become very uncomfortable. Genital warts may progress by being passed to others, and increasing in size and number (FDA). Teenagers will have to adjust coming to the reality that they have come in contact with a sexual transmitted disease. Although warts can go away on their own or with medical treatment, the HPV virus may still be in the body and the warts can come back later in life. Genital warts are caused by the common HPV strains 6 and 11. Teenagers need to be aware of the choices and decisions they make with their bodies. Teenagers make think using a condom protects them from all diseases, however, since HPV is transmitted by skin contact, teenager can still contact genital HPV even when using condoms.

Although common warts and genital warts do not have any long-term fatal consequences, strains 16 and 18 can lead to cancers. The most common HPV related cancer is cervical cancer in women. HPV strains are also linked to: "vulva, vagina, anus, penis, mouth and throat" cancers (Brown University). Cervical cancer and other HPV related cancers usually do not have any signs or symptoms (CDC). It is important for women and teenager girls with genital warts to continue to get physical exams. It is also important for women to have regular Pap test to detect any abnormal tissue cause by the HPV virus. "The Pap test is an examination of a woman's internal genital organs to detect abnormal cells in the cervix. The Pap test is the only way to detect abnormal cells in your cervix that could potentially maybe develop into cervical cancer later in life. A girl should have her first Pap test within three years of becoming sexually active "(HPVInfo). Cervical cancer can be fatal if left untreated and undiagnosed.

For common warts, hand washing in young children can be used as a preventative measure. Once warts are visual, they may go way on their own. However, topical agents, cryotheraphy (frozen with liquid nitrogen), or laser therapy may be used to have the warts removed. Genital warts may often go away on their own, but that does not guarantee a person is free from the HPV virus. For teenagers especially, the only way to prevent genital HPV is abstinence. Teenagers can prevent HPV by receiving the vaccinations Gardasil or Cervarix. The CDC strongly recommends the HPV vaccination for girls and boys at ages 11 and 12.

Gardasil®. A vaccine available for both men and women. Developed by Merck, Gardasil® is close to 100% effective at preventing infection associated with HPV types 6 & 11(types associated with 90% of all genital warts) and types 16 &18 (types associated with 70% of all cervical cancers, and many vulvar and vaginal cancers).

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Cervarix®, developed by GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) is a vaccine just for women. This vaccine is also close to 100% effective at preventing infection associated with HPV 16 & 18 (associated with 70% of all cervical cancers). Studies suggest Cervarix® also offers cross-protection against other "high risk" HPV types. (

Research is ongoing with the HPV virus and vaccines. The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease is conducting research "on the risk factors associated with HPV infection and infection among different age ranges." They are also "examining whether risks of new HPV infection among women who are 45-65 years of age is greater than in women who are 25-45 years old." Also, according to ASHA, researchers are also looking for better ways to test men for the HPV virus. Because HPV is a virus that may have no symptoms, teenage boys and girls need to be aware and knowledgeable about the high-risks strains of HPV that may lead to cancer.

Figure 49. Human Papillomavirus-Prevalence of High-risk and Low-risk Types Among Females Aged 14-59 Years, National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, 2003-2006

Comparing the vaccines



Manufactured by

Merck & Co., Inc.

GlaxoSmithKline (GSK)

FDA Approval

2006 for girls and women, 2010 for boys and men


Types of HPV it protects against

Protects against 4 types of HPV: Types 6 and 11 (cause of 90% of genital warts) and types 16 and 18 (cause of 70% of cervical cancer)

Protects against 2 types of HPV: Types 16 and 18 (cause of 70% of cervical cancer)


Almost 100% effective at blocking infection and cervical diseases from the two "high-risk" types most commonly found with cervical, vulvar, and vaginal cancers. Also found nearly as good at protecting against the two "low-risk" types of HPV found in most cases of genital warts.

Found to prevent nearly all cases of infection and cervical diseases from the "high risk" HPV types found with most cervical cancers.

Who is eligible?

Girls, young women, boys and young men

Girls and young women

Recommended for those already sexually active?

Gardasil® may prove beneficial even to those that are already sexually active. Exposure to all 4 virus types is unlikely, thus, Gardasil® will still provide protection against the other types.

Yes. Cervarix® may prove beneficial even to those that are already sexually active. If not exposed to both virus types, Cervarix» will still provide protection against the other type.

When to be vaccinated

Ages 9-26. Most effective when administered before there is contact with HPV Types 6, 11 (for men and women), 16, and 18 (for women only).

Ages 10-25. Most effective when administered before there is contact with HPV Types 16 and 18.


3 injections over a 6 month period

Side effects

The only common and well-documented side effects with either vaccine are pain, swelling, and redness at the injection site.


Widely available across the U.S. For those experiencing financial restrictions, refer to the website for vaccine patient assistance programs.

Widely available across the U.S.



Nobel Prize

The Rockefeller University

Harvard University

The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases

HPV Info

Better Health Channel


American Social Health Association

Brown University