Papillomaviruses are viruses that can cause cancerous lesions.
What Is Papillomavirus?
Papillomaviruses are common and resistant viruses that infect humans (known as human papillomavirus or HPV) and animals. There are more than 200 different types. There are two main families of papillomavirus: mucosal papillomaviruses that infect the mucous membranes and cutaneous papillomaviruses that infect the skin.
Symptoms Of Papillomavirus
HPV infection is latent at first. That is, the papillomavirus is present in the body without any apparent symptoms. If the infected person fails to develop the immune defenses needed to eliminate the virus, they become active. This concerns 10 to 20% of cases. Depending on the type of virus, it can cause benign lesions or cancerous lesions. Some HPVs are said to be non-oncogenic, that is, low risk. They cause benign lesions such as warts or condylomas (small genital warts). The most common are HPV 6 and 11. HPV oncogenes are at high risk of developing cancerous lesions, especially in the cervix or anus - the most common of these are HPV 16 and 18. In terms of skin, HPV 5 and 8 can cause skin cancer.
Transmission Of Papillomavirus
Human papillomaviruses are highly contagious. They are usually transmitted by direct contact, skin against skin or mucous membrane against mucous, with an infected person. In the case of genital infection, this is most often done during penetrative sex or oral sex. A high number of partners and a history of other STIs (sexually transmitted infections) increase the risks. Indirect transmission via contaminated objects or clothing is also possible, though rare. In some cases, HPV can be transmitted from mother to child during delivery if the infection is active. The contamination rate is estimated at 7%. It rises to 40% in case of infection with HPV 16 or 18.
There are two vaccines against HPV: a bivalent against HPV 16 and 18 and a quadrivalent against HPV 6 and 11 and 16 and 18. Vaccination is recommended for all young adolescents, starting at the age of 14 years. The vaccine does not protect against all HPV. It is therefore recommended to carry out regular smear screening in all women between the ages of 25 and 65, even when vaccinated.
Treatment for human papillomaviruses depends on the type of HPV and associated lesions. Warts can be treated with creams and salicylic acid products. Cryotherapy is also a frequently used method. This involves freezing the wart off using liquid nitrogen. Finally, laser or electrocoagulation are other techniques used. Since relapse rates are quite high, it is advisable to have regular re-examination and to use condoms several months after the disappearance of the lesions.
The treatment is much heavier in case of cancer. In the case of cervical cancer, it is usually a removal of the uterus, upper vagina and ovaries. This may be alongside radiation therapy in case of large tumours. Other cancers caused by HPV are most often treated by targeted radiotherapy or chemotherapy.