A large scale genetic analysis has revealed that two thirds of healthy Americans , may be infected with one or more strains of Human Papilloma Virus ( HPV), the virus responsible for cervical, anal and oral cancers and genital warts. There are over 100 different strains of HPV and they all carry different levels of risk. In particular strain 16 and 18 is implicated in a large number of cancers.
HPV is the most common sexually transmitted infection in the US. It is believed that most sexually active men and women will contract it at some point in their sexually active lives. In most cases the HPV infection will be harmless, or might cause minor problems such as genital warts. Of course even genital warts can have a huge impact on a persons sex life and relationships, so it is important not to forget this. However, the more pressing concern is cancer. HPV 16 and 18 is implicated in around 70% of cervical cancers , whilst HPV 16 on it’s own is implicated in 50% of oral and 85% of anal cancers. It is a really big concern.

In the recent study by Yingfei Ma PhD of NUY Langone Medical Centre in New York, the team analysed data from the National Institutes of Health Human Microbiome project. This included tissue samples from 103 healthy men and women, and 748 tissue swabs of the skin, vagina gut and mouth

Of the 148 known HPV types, 109 were detected in 69% of the study group, but only four of those had evidence of HPV 16 and 18. 61% had skin infections, 41% vaginal and 30% oral infections. Around a third of people had infections present in two sites.

The researches concluded that there seems to be evidence of a seemingly ‘normal ‘ HPV biome that doesn’t necessarily cause disease and might be seen to be similar to the large numbers of gut bacteria , or microbiome, which is key to maintaining good health, but they pointed out that further research is needed into the more harmful strains.
There will need to be a lot more research into whether we need to be concerned about all these other types, but for the moment the consensus is that vaccinating against 16 and 18 is very important, for both men and women who are sexually active.