A new study performed by scientists at the University of Texas Health Science Centre, suggest that extracts from a Japanese mushroom has the potential to eradicate HPV (human papilloma virus), the leading cause of cervical cancer.

HPV infection is one of the most common sexually transmitted infections. There are over a 100 subtypes of HPV of which around 60 are sexually transmittable. We know that strain 16 and 18 are the most commonly implicated in the development of cervical cancer. In addition HPV also causes 95% of anal cancers, 60% or oropharyngeal cancers, 50% of vulval cancers and 35% of penile cancers. It is clearly a very big problem with huge impact on morbidity and mortality.

Currently there are 2 vaccines available that can prevent infection with the most common cancer causing strains. However to date there has been no real effective treatment for people who already have the infection.

Judith Smith, Associate Professor of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology and Reproductive sciences at the University of Texas Health Science Centre, and her team, have been testing active hexose correlated compound (AHCC) against HPV. AHCC is a substance produced by shiitake mushrooms and is known for its immune boosting properties and previous studies have shown that it might be effective in warding off tumour growth.

For the study they enrolled 10 HPV positive women into the study. These women were given an oral formulation of ACHH which they had to take daily for 6 months. After 3 months, five of the women tested negative for HPV. In 3 of these the HPV had been completely eradicated even after the stopped using the product. The rest of the women had to take the supplement for the full 6 months before they saw the same results

The team described the findings as encouraging. They are now planning a further phase 2 trial for 6 month treatment, to establish if this is a viable way to treat HPV. The good news is that AHCC is a nutritional supplement already available, with no know side effects and that boast other immune modulating benefits.

There is still a way to go before we will know if this is indeed a way to treat HPV and I would advise patients with HPV to consult with their doctor first, before taking any supplements as there might be interactions with other medications they are already taking. and a lot more research is needed. However it is a promising study.