Young women can get HPV without intercourse

August 16, 2012

At their first dose of quadrivalent vaccine for human papillomavirus (HPV), more than 11% of young women aged 13 to 21 years who had never had sexual intercourse were already infected with 1 or more strains of HPV, a study has found. What is the mechanism of transmission? More >>

At their first dose of quadrivalent vaccine for human papillomavirus (HPV), more than 11% of young women aged 13 to 21 years who had never had sexual intercourse were already infected with 1 or more strains of HPV, a study has found.

Researchers evaluated 259 young women recruited from an adolescent primary care clinic of whom 190 (73.4%) were sexually experienced (had had vaginal or anal intercourse). Nine (13%) of the 69 inexperienced study participants reported sexual contact (genital, skin-to-skin contact only). Eight of the sexually inexperienced participants (11.6%) were infected with HPV, as were 133 (70%) of the sexually experienced participants.

Of the sexually inexperienced participants, 2 (2.9%) were infected with HPV-16, 2 (2.9%) with HPV-68, none with HPV-18, and 3 (4.3%) with any vaccine-type HPV. Five patients had more than 1 HPV type (2 with 2 types and 3 with 3 types).

Inexperienced girls and women may have contracted HPV by hand-to-genital or genital skin-to-skin-only contact, the researchers speculate. They note that their study shows that sexually inexperienced girls and young women are vulnerable to HPV infection and it supports recommendations that 11- to 12-year-old girls be targeted for HPV immunization. Vaccination should not be delayed because a girl is not sexually active, they emphasize.

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