Experimental vaccine eliminates HPV infection

Bernard Rundle with his wife Sue left and granddaughter Maya

Bernard Rundle with his wife Sue left and granddaughter Maya

A new study has found that the rolling out of HPV immunizations in Scotland has resulted in tumbling rates of cervical disease, which can lead to cancer.

Cervical cancer is the third most common cancer among women in the United Kingdom under the age of 35 after breast and skin cancer.

Compared to these unvaccinated women, they found, the women vaccinated as young girls were far less likely to have any kind of cervical disease, defined as the growth of abnormal cells in the cervix. This programme should also mean that high-risk HPV infections among the population should be eliminated more quickly, which should have knock-on benefits for rates of HPV-driven cancers.

"But because it knocks out these other three types, it is nearer 90% of cervical pre-cancer in Scotland."

This is consistent with the fact that we have also seen a big fall in high-risk HPV infection in Scotland in recent years.

Research finds that young minority gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men have high rates of HPV infection, despite the availability of a vaccine that can prevent infection.

Unvaccinated women also showed a reduction in disease, possibly due to herd protection, say the researchers. She called for scaling up of HPV vaccination to countries where it is not yet available or accepted.

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This has now been investigated by researchers at Karolinska Institutet in a study published in The BMJ, in which they investigated all Swedish cases of invasive cervical cancer from 2002 to 2011, identified using the National Swedish Cancer Registry.

CIN is graded from 1 to 3+ and cases of CIN2 and over were reduced by some 88 percent, with CIN grade 1 on 79 percent.

"It is associated with near elimination of both low and high-grade cervical disease in young Scottish women 8 years after the vaccine programme started". This may protect older women from developing cervical cancer.

All in all, Palmer said, the study shows that Scotland's HPV program has been an unmitigated success, one that will continue to pay off for decades.

According to the authors, there's been a reduction of up to 90% of cervical disease abnormalities (or pre-cancerous cells). "Before that stage, the frequency and number of screening tests will need to be reviewed; there are suggestions that just two or three tests in a screening "lifetime" will be adequate".

"We must also actively develop, resource, and scale-up more effective, feasible, and culturally acceptable strategies for cervical screening, such as self-collection of specimens, 12 if we are ever to effectively reduce the global burden of cervical cancer".

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