Sexually active college-age women have a high incidence of human papillomavirus (HPV) infection according to a study supported by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease (NIAID) and reported in the Feb. 12, 1998 issue of The New England Journal of Medicine.
"Genital infection with HPV is one of the most common sexually transmitted diseases, with its prevalence in young women ranging from 20 percent to 46 percent in different countries," says Study Director Robert D. Burk, M.D., of the Department of Pediatrics, Microbiology and Immunology, and the Department of Epidemiology and Social Medicine at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine. "The public health impact of this infection is compounded by the recognized causal relationship between genital infections with certain types of HPV and cell abnormalities of the cervix and cervical cancer."
"The incidence of HPV infection in sexually active young college women is alarming. Furthermore, we currently have no effective way to prevent infection. The need for topical microbicides and effective vaccines is urgent," says Penny Hitchcock, D.V.M., chief of the sexually transmitted diseases branch in NIAID's Division of Microbiology and Infectious Diseases. "It is certainly reassuring that only a small number of women will develop cervical cell changes or cancer. However, until we have more precise diagnostic tests, it is important for young women to have regular Pap smears."
Through campus-wide advertisements at a state university in New Brunswick, N.J.,
the study team enrolled 608 young women. Their average age was 20 years, and the
ethnic distribution was 57 percent white, 13 percent Hispanic, 12 percent black
and 18 percent other. Twenty-six percent were diagnosed with HPV infection at the beginning of the
study. Each of the women had pelvic examinations and Pap smears at the study
outset and annually. For a maximum of thre
Contact: Cheryl Parrott
NIH/National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases