Do You Have Papilloma Virus? Probably

It wasn't so long ago that we'd never heard the word "papilloma," let alone used in conjunction with "virus."

But a shocking new study has found that up to 2/3 of healthy American adults may harbor this virus.

The good news is that only a few of the 109 strains cause cancer, according to newswise.com.

The Web site reports that researchers say that while most of the viral strains so far appear to be harmless and can remain dormant for years, their overwhelming presence suggests a delicate balancing act for HPV infection in the body, in which many viral strains keep each other in check, preventing other strains from spreading out of control. Although infection is increasingly known to happen through skin-to-skin contact, HPV remains the most common sexually transmitted infection in the United States. It is so common that experts estimate nearly all men and women contract some strain of it during their lives.

“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,” newswise quotes senior study investigator and NYU Langone pathologist Zhiheng Pei, MD, PhD. 

Dr. Pei cautions that until the harm or benefits of the many HPV strains become apparent, people should not be overly concerned, but consult their physician or an infectious disease specialist to assess any potential threat before seeking any antiviral or other therapy. In addition, he says getting vaccinated against types 16 and 18 is still “a good idea,” especially for preventing cervical cancer, until broader, more comprehensive anti-HPV vaccines become available that also target cancers in other body organs and tissues.

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