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Half of men may have HPV virus

Findings that indicate approximately half of all men may be infected with the human papillomavirus (HPV) have led to fresh calls that boys in the UK should be vaccinated against the sexually transmitted infection.

Scientists at the H Lee Moffitt Cancer Centre and Research Institute in Tampa, Florida, carried out a study which analysed 1,159 men, aged 18-70 years, from the US, Brazil and Mexico. Its results have been published in The Lancet medical journal.

The men taking part in the study were tested at regular intervals during a period of more than two years. The study determined that about half of the male population carried some form of HPV and that every year there was a six per cent increase in carriers of HPV 16 and 18, the deadliest forms of the virus which can cause cancer.

In The Lancet report, the study authors concluded: 'The results from this study provide much-needed data about the incidence and clearance of HPV infection in men; these data are essential for the development of realistic cost-effectiveness models for male HPV vaccination internationally.'

Girls between the ages of 12 and 13 in the UK have been offered the vaccine since 2008, but there is no immunisation programme in place for boys.

The UK Department of Health said the vaccination of boys was not recommended by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), its independent advisory body. The JCVI maintains such a course of action would not provide any additional benefit and would not be cost- effective.

Professor Lawrence Young, head of the University of Birmingham’s College of Medical and Dental Sciences, has called for a rethink.

Writing in the Daily Mail, Professor Young said more tests need to be done to fully understand how HPV is spread between men and women. However, he added, 'I implore health chiefs to think seriously about vaccinating boys against HPV.'

Although teenage girls are offered the vaccine, there is no law to ensure every girl has it. Even “optimistic figures” put the amount of British girls receiving it at just 70- 80 per cent, Professor Young claimed.

  • A version of this article first appeared in Challenges, the newsletter of the Durex Network.

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Page created on August 8th, 2011

Page updated on August 8th, 2011