Human Papillomavirus, HPV, is a very successful Virus, from the microbial standpoint. It has been around for a long time, specializes in Humans, kills many fewer than it infects and becomes a chronic disease, even if 90% of infections resolve spontaneously within 2 years.
HPV is a DNA Virus. Most of the strains, if they persist, become harmless nuisances, and cause “Verruca Vulgaris”, the common wart of the skin. The voicebox and windpipe area is rarely targeted, but warts can produce problems there because of the location. Non-malignant genital warts can also occur with certain serotypes.
A few members of the HPV family have evolved to generate premalignant lesions that can develop into CANCER. These strains are spread by Sexual contact. In Women, the CERVIX of the Uterus or the vagina are often involved. The anal area, back of the throat and the Lung are occasional sites in both sexes. In Men, the Penis is targeted.
Cancer is generally a delayed effect that occurs after a long infection. Some HPV strains, such a 16 and 18, have evolved to suppress the p53 gene, an ONCOGENE which protects us from malignant progression. Without this protection, a chance cancerous mutation can grow without restraint. Since HPV can invade only the deeper basal stem cells in the skin or lining mucous membranes, some minor trauma or break in the surface is needed to allow Viral entry.
If antibodies are present, the Virus is intercepted, and infection doesn’t take place. This discovery made Immunization with the Cancer-producing strains attractive. It is also why the immunization is recommended in Childhood, before Sexual activity begins. Immunization after the HPV is already inside the body is Ineffective.
The Virus is already in the Nucleus of infected cells and protected from the immune response. The recommendation is to get the immunization in childhood, and use condoms.