Researchers at the University of Delaware College of Health Sciences have made a significant contribution to global health by investigating the most common sexually transmitted infection (STI) in the world, human papillomavirus (HPV). The Centers for Disease Control reports that 79 million Americans have HPV, with 14 million new infections occurring annually. Women, in particular, are at risk, with 80% expected to contract at least one type of HPV during their lifetime. HPV is responsible for causing cervical cancer, which is the third most common cancer among women and the second leading cause of cancer-related death worldwide.
In a recent study published in Virology Journal, researchers from the University of Delaware’s Department of Medical and Molecular Sciences (MMSC) confirmed the presence of 25 different types of HPV in Nigeria. Approximately half of these types have the potential to cause cancer, while others contribute to STIs such as genital warts. The research involved collaboration with two Nigerian hospitals and was facilitated by UD alumna Ngozi Dom-Chima, who played a vital role in establishing trust and cooperation between the research team and local Nigerian hospital systems.
The study analyzed 90 cervical samples using next-generation DNA sequencing and identified multiple HPV types in each sample. The researchers discovered high rates of multiple HPV infections, with some samples containing up to nine different types of HPV. The findings highlight the urgent need for region-specific HPV vaccines, as the leading vaccine, Gardasil-9, only protects against nine cancer-causing types prevalent in the United States. Of the 25 types identified in Nigeria, only six are covered by the current vaccine.
Lead investigator Sam Biswas emphasizes the need for targeted vaccines specific to the strains circulating in different countries. Dom-Chima hopes that pharmaceutical companies will take note of this research and develop region-specific effective vaccines to protect against the prevalent strains of HPV in Nigeria and other regions.
– Virology Journal (2023). DOI: 10.1186/s12985-023-02106-y