According to the American Sexual Health Association, Human papilloma virus (HPV), a common sexually transmitted infection (STI), affects more than 14 million people every year in the U.S. alone. A vaccine called Gardasil can protect from strains of HPV linked with cervical cancer but many other strains cause symptoms like genital warts or there may be no symptoms at all.
A new study has revealed that a low risk variety of HPV can change the vaginal microbiome, thereby protecting family and pregnancy. The study was published in Frontiers in Cellular & Infection Microbiology. The study also identified that a lot of people who had low-risk HPV also had chlamydia and mycoplasma genitalium, a kind of bacteria that can cause an STI.
The research team evaluated 62 different samples of vaginal microbiota including the one’s which had a low-risk HPV infection. Low-risk HPV strains can cause genital warts but they are not linked to illnesses like cervical cancer. A microbiologist, Dr. Nick Wheelhouse, at Edinburgh Napier University who reviewed the study found this focus on low-risk HPV types that made the study interesting. The researchers focused on the low-grade HPV and yet found something similar to what people found with high-grade HPV. Cancer is linked to only the high grade HPV and with the low-risk HPV people only talk about genital warts, he said.
According to the Centres for Disease Control & Prevention, there are up to 40 different types of HPV that can spread by sexual contact. Vagina has many kinds of bacteria and microscopic life known as a microbiome which is good as a balanced microbiome. It is a key element of vaginal health. But an unbalanced microbiome can cause things like yeast infections.