Wednesday, August 01, 2007

HPV found under the fingernails of men

An avid reader of the blog was kind enough to send me a link to this article from, which really surprised me:

"Controversy continues to plague efforts to protect young women against cervical cancer by vaccinating them against HPV, the human papillomavirus, but one leading scientist's discovery could throw a monkey wrench into the debate.

"We found HPV under the fingernails of young men," said Dr. Laura Koutsky, a University of Washington epidemiologist.

Koutsky led some of the pioneering research and clinical trials that resulted in an HPV vaccine, Merck's Gardasil, recently approved for use in girls and young women. The reason her fingernail finding is a potential bombshell has to do with why the vaccine is controversial.

HPV, which is the leading cause of most cervical cancers, is primarily a sexually transmitted disease. Opponents of HPV vaccines believe that immunizing girls against this virus sends the message that engaging in sex at a young age is acceptable behavior.

The presence of HPV under fingernails, she said, at the very least suggests another possible route of transmission. It's an additional route of infection, she said, that could explain some previous apparent anomalies such as HPV infection in infants and young girls who had not yet engaged in sexual activity.

Koutsky's not quite sure what to make of the finding, which has yet to be reported in a journal, but she said it is certainly 'a surprise.' " Read the rest of the article here.

This could turn the whole HPV vaccination debate on its head if it is confirmed that HPV can be spread through non-sexual, non-intimate contact. Not only would the debate about mandating the vaccine in schools be shifted, but this will throw a new issue to objectors on the basis of religion or other moral beliefs about sexual activity.

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