New research, led by the University of Sheffield, has found that rates of oral high-risk human papillomavirus (HR-HPV) infection among adults in England are lower than expected. However, the majority of high-risk strains identified are not covered by the current vaccine.
The observational study, conducted in Sheffield between April 2013 and August 2014, recruited 700 adults aged 18-60 years. Participants included university students (n=179), university and hospital staff (n=163), dental hospital patients (n=13), Sexual Health Sheffield patients (n=122) and the general public (n=223).
Participants completed a lifestyle and sexual behaviour questionnaire, provided an oral rinse and gargle sample for the detection of oral HR-HPV.
The data revealed an oral HR-HPV infection prevalence of 2.2% (15/680), with 0.7% (5/680) positive for HPV16 or HPV18. Participants with oral HR-HPV infection were more likely to be former smokers and had a greater number of sexual and oral sexual partners.
The prevalence of HPV16 or HPV18 highlights the need for safe sex and lifestyle practices alongside the HPV vaccination programmes.
Commenting on the findings, published in the BMJ Open, Dr. Vanessa Hearnden from the University of Sheffield said: "We fully support the newly announced HPV vaccination programme for boys.”
"However,” she said, “we found the majority of individuals testing positive for high-risk strains of HPV were actually positive for strains other than those covered by the current vaccine. This shows the need to consider newer vaccines which protect against more HPV strains in the future and for individuals to be aware of lifestyle risk factors such as number of sexual partners and tobacco use."