HPV declines, vaccine likely responsible

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A promising trend shows that human papillomavirus (HPV) infection rates may be declining, according to new research presented at a recent Society of Gynecologic Oncology meeting. During the period following the introduction of the HPV vaccine in 2006, HPV infections have gone down, suggesting that the vaccine may be starting to have a protective role among the American population.

A University of Minnesota researcher and colleagues tracked HPV test results for more than 57,000 girls and women aged 11 to 29 between the years 2004 and 2011, obtaining these results from three clinical laboratories. Since the vaccine would take time to be implemented following its approval, the researchers considered changes in HPV rates starting around one year after approval in July 2007. Though the vaccination status of the study participants was unknown, the results still showed that HPV infection rates have declined since the vaccine s introduction, including a significant decrease in the rate of HPV 16, which is linked to cervical cancer and is one of the subtypes targeted by the HPV vaccine. Furthermore, HPV 6 and 11 infections have gone down as well; these strains of the virus, associated with genital warts, are targeted by one of the two available HPV vaccines.

While the researchers did not assess the vaccination status of the participants, and therefore could not determine definitively whether this decline in HPV was a direct result of vaccination campaigns, ACSH's Dr. Gilbert Ross believes that the evidence strongly supports a link between the vaccine and lower infection rates. When a vaccine program is implemented one year, and over the next several years the infection rate plummets, he points out, you may infer with confidence that the vaccine played a role. We can anticipate even more substantial declines as the number of girls and young women and now their male counterparts receive the vaccine per CDC recommendations.