Human papillomavirus (HPV) infection is among the most common viral infections of the reproductive tract. Out of more than 100 different types of HPV identified so far, only a few (termed as “high-risk” subtypes) are associated with cervical cancer. On the other hand, “low-risk” subtypes are associated with genital warts and other benign changes in cervical and oral mucosa. Majority of the HPV infections usually clear up without any intervention within a few months. However, a fraction of HPV infections, such as those with types 16 and 18, can become persistent which may lead to the development of anogenital or cervical cancers. HPV subtypes 16 and 18 together are responsible for approximately 70% of all cervical cancer cases, the fourth major cause of cancer-related deaths in women. In the absence of any specific treatment options, preventive measures are considered as cornerstone of strategies aimed at curbing the burden of this disease. This chapter presents a comprehensive review of strategies that can be employed to prevent and eradicate HPV infection. Minimizing the exposure to HPV risk factors such as unprotected sex, multiple sex partners, early age sex, and not being circumcised, can reduce the chances of getting HPV infection to a significant level. Mass screening programs have also been effective in HPV eradication. Nevertheless, immunization against HPV has proven to be the most promising strategy in fight against HPV. Virus-like particles based on bivalent, quadrivalent, and nonavalent anti-HPV vaccines have been licensed and are available in market under the trade names of Cervarix®, Gardasil®, and Gardasil9®, respectively. Various clinical trials and population-based studies have demonstrated high levels of efficacy for all the three vaccines in preventing type-specific malignancies.
Part of the book: Human Papillomavirus