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The news from January 2019 in the world of HPV. Have we missed a story? Get in touch and let us know.

New Vaccine Developed to Fight more HPV Types

In order to expand HPV type coverage in the HPV vaccine, the number of virus-like particles in the vaccine are usually increased. However, this approach has its downfalls, particularly the increase in the number of side effects it causes. It also increases the manufacturing costs, making it more difficult to deliver the vaccine to as many young people as possible around the world. Researchers at Xiamen University in China have developed a new HPV vaccine, one that can protect against more HPV types using fewer particles. By looping the particles, they can develop triple type particles, paving the way for an improved vaccine that could protect against as many as 20 different HPV types, compared to the current record of 9. This expansion can help protect people against the viruses not covered in the current vaccine, that cause the remaining 10% of cervical cancers, amongst others.

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Research Made into Distinguishing Between Different HPV Positive Cancers

HPV is responsible for around 70% of the 18,000 cases of oropharyngeal cancer diagnosed each year in America alone. So far, head and neck cancers have only been able to be identified as either HPV positive or HPV negative. However, by studying the variation in the level of HPV in different cases of head and neck cancer, researchers at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center have found a gene signature within these cancers. While the research is in an early stage, it may one day be able to make decisions that will affect treatment response and survival in patients. A more defined diagnosis will allow treatments to be more focused, leading to a less intense and, hopefully, more successful care.

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St. Lucia to Begin Gender Neutral HPV Vaccination Programme

The St. Lucia Ministry of Health has announced that they will be launching a HPV vaccination programme for all children, boys and girls, in their Grade Six classes. An education campaign will precede the implementation of the programme, which will hopefully increase the rate of uptake amongst those who can be vaccinated. The reason for the implementation of the programme is to decrease the rate of cervical cancer on the island, but it will also help prevent many other cancers, in men and women. The Ministry, as well as the Assistant Principal Nursing Officer on the island, have emphasised that “The vaccine is being introduced as a cancer prevention strategy and all of that is based on our burden of disease because we have seen an increase in the numbers of cervical cancer.”

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Stressing the Importance of Reinstating the HPV Vaccine in Japan

In Japan, the HPV vaccination programme has been suspended since 2013, and has been pending re-approval ever since. There has previously been research at Osaka University showing that the HPV vaccine hiatus will increase the risk of HPV infection and future cervical cancer for girls in the country. Around 9,000 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer alone in Japan every year, and 2,000-3,000 women die from it. The suspension of the vaccine means only a tiny minority of the population receive the vaccine, and only by reinstating the national recommendation for it will it become more common in Japanese society.

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Partial Completion of HPV Programme Enough to Offer Some Protection

Now that the HPV vaccine has been available to the public for over 10 years in some countries, research into the vaccine can shift from its efficacy within the limits of a controlled laboratory to its effectiveness in the real world. Many studies investigating this have found that the vaccine performs as well as expected, however, there are many variables that can affect vaccine uptake and effectiveness, and more focused studies are needed to understand these nuances. One study does provide some clarity on the subject – it tells us that even if someone has not been fully vaccinated against HPV, partially completing the programme will provide protection. The study also found that the quadrivalent vaccine offers cross protection for more HPV types than it directly affects, and the increase in herd immunity just from the introduction of the quadrivalent vaccine.

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Decreases in HPV Types Following 11 Years of Vaccinations

According to a study published in the Pediatrics journal this month, there has been a decrease in the types of HPV that the quadrivalent HPV vaccine protects against, from 2006 to 2017. Since the vaccine was introduced in 2006, vaccination rates have increased to nearly 85%, and 4-valent vaccine-type HPV has decreased by 80.9% among vaccinated women. There was also a 40% decrease in these HPV types in women who were unvaccinated against HPV. This finding is particularly important as it shows the effect a high vaccination rate can have on the herd immunity of a population. It is also promising for potential results that could come from introducing boys to HPV vaccination programmes.

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Anti-Vax Now Among Top 10 Health Threats

According to the World Health Organisation, the anti-vaccination movement is now among the top ten threats to global health and global health security. According to the WHO, the cases of measles around the world have increased by 30%, and ‘vaccine hesitancy’, as they put it, have contributed to this increase. This development has put the movement alongside other global threats, such as Ebola, antibiotics resistance, and a global influenza pandemic. What makes the anti-vax movement stand out in comparison to the other threats on the list is that it is a man-made problem, and therefore arguably harder to combat. Vaccines can prevent up to 3 million deaths every year, including those caused by HPV. The key to combating this threat is education: by showing parents the importance of vaccines so that they protect their children, and instil good practice, from a young age.

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