Do you know what the papillomavirus is?

The HPV Test is for a virus that creates a lot of discussion, but not everyone knows what it consists of.

Today, we often hear about papillomavirus or HPV (Human Papilloma Virus), especially from mothers and teenage daughters since the vaccine became available in 2006. Everyone seems to know about STD tests, but few have clear ideas and know what a female “enemy” we are dealing with. Let’s discuss it together to learn more about the risks and prevention. Today, we often hear about papillomavirus or HPV (Human papillomavirus), especially from mothers and teenage daughters since the vaccine became available in 2006. Everyone seems to know it, but few have clear ideas and know what a female “enemy” we are dealing with.

HPV, or human papillomavirus, is a DNA virus that spreads widely among the population, and there is undoubtedly a link of its importance to cervical cancer. It is now certain that at least 90% of cases of cervical cancer are due to HPV infection.

Types of the disease 

The papillomavirus subtypes are more than a hundred different and are classified with a number next to the acronym HPV. It is possible to identify their presence in the genital tract and type them using a simple test, the HPV DNA test, similar to a vaginal swab which isolates the presence of viral DNA in that area.

The symptoms and consequences of the infection also vary for the different subtypes of the virus. STD Lab tests are helpful to clarify which disease is causing the issues and what treatments can be done. These can be classified into high-risk strains and low-oncogenic risk strains. These lesions appear as small growths, which can have very variable appearance and size, resemble the top of a cauliflower or be flat, and in some cases cause an annoying itch. They generally appear on the outside of the genitals, in the vagina, on the perineum and in the anus area, on the penis and testicles; in some cases, these symptoms also appear in the mouth. However, it is a mistake to believe that you are healthy because you don’t have warts!

Papilloma virus vaccine

The two vaccines for papillomavirus, commercially available since 2006, protect against HPV 16/18, and only one of the two is the so-called quadrivalent. HPV Lab tests are good for identifying the variant. This helps to decide how to protect against HPV 6/11. Since 2014, the vaccination program has included two intramuscular administrations to be carried out six months apart in subjects up to 14 years of age for the bivalent (valid for papillomavirus types 6 and 11) and up to 13 for the tetravalent. Above this age, three doses are provided for both vaccines.

The bivalent vaccine is currently the least widespread. The quadrivalent vaccine can also be administered to males, positively impacting both sexes. Even after age 14, many experts suggest that it is possible to protect yourself with the human papillomavirus vaccine until you turn 20.

Vaccination is most effective if sexuality has not yet begun.

For this reason, boys and girls can receive it from 12 vaccines and HPV Home tests. At this young age, it is free. Boys also benefit from this vaccination because they protect themselves from anogenital and mouth-tongue tumours. It is precisely the vaccination of both males and females that limits the circulation of the virus. The goal is for 95% of girls (and boys) to have their vaccinations by 2030.

Prevention and pap Exams

What are STDs?

Beyond the vaccine, women are not exempt from undergoing the actual screening test for cervical cancer. The Pap test can be carried out during the routine gynaecological visit. This test should be done for the first time after having had sexual intercourse, regardless of age. After that, it is recommended to get an STD Lab test at least every 3 years from the age of 25 onwards. And, of course, if there has been sexual intercourse. It is, therefore, not advisable to do this in women who have not yet had intercourse.

Thanks to screening with the Pap test and the possibility of having an early diagnosis, the mortality from cervical cancer is significantly lower. This is due to the possibility of identifying precancerous lesions early and treating them before they evolve.

If the Pap exam results show the presence of HPV, it will be advisable to repeat it after 6 months to exclude a false positive. However, if a positive result is confirmed, you can proceed with the Home HPV DNA test. This test uses molecular biology techniques to give you a clearer picture of the risk of developing a tumour lesion.

If the doctor deems it useful, we will proceed with a colposcopy. This is a level II examination that allows direct viewing of the lesion. After a preliminary evaluation of the tissues, chemical reagents highlight the areas affected by HPV. A targeted biopsy for histological confirmation is also possible.

Prevention certainly remains the best method to control infection

It is important to be careful to have protected sexual relations, especially if casual or with multiple partners.

Do not underestimate another risk factor: a weak immune system. A weak immune system would be unable to eradicate the infection, thus leaving room for its progression. Some other risk factors include cigarette smoking, being overweight and obese, and having had a pregnancy at a young age.

Cure for papillomavirus

What do you think I should do in case of infection? There is no real pharmacological cure besides HPV Testing. The most widespread therapies currently eliminate internal lesions but do not eliminate the infection. If they are more extensive, radiofrequency or colonisation of the uterine cervix is the solution. Warts can be treated with salicylic acid-based creams for local use, generally applied for three months.

The papillomavirus is just one of the STDs. Do you want to learn more about the others and full STD Profiles, treatments and prevention? You should also read the article “What are sexually transmitted diseases?”.