A new study has found that 69% percent of healthy American adults are infected with one or more of 109 strains of the human papillomavirus (HPV), although most are not infected with the HPV strains known to cause most cases of cervical cancer, certain throat cancers, and genital warts. The findings were presented at the American Society for Microbiology annual meeting.

Yingfei Ma, PhD, and colleagues from NYU Langone Medical Center in New York City analyzed data from tissue samples of four organs collected from 103 healthy men and women ages 18–80. The data was publically available via the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Human Microbiome Project. Using a bioinformatics software, the researchers were able to remove all human DNA sequences in the data and evaluate for HPV DNA. HPV was detected in 69% of participants, with the presence of 109 of the 148 known HPV types. HPV infections were in the skin (61%), vagina (41%), mouth (30%), and gut (17%). Of those with HPV, 59% had infection in only one organ, 31% in two organs, and 10% in three organs.

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The most varied HPV strains were seen in skin samples, with 80 strains of HPV detected that included 40 found exclusively in the skin followed by vaginal tissue (43 strains, 20 exclusive), mouth tissue (33 strains, 5 exclusive), and gut tissue (6 strains, none exclusive). Only four of the individuals had either of the two HPV strains linked to some forms of cervical cancer, throat cancers, and genital warts.

Until additional information on the benefits or harm of many of the HPV strains becomes available, the study authors encourage vaccination against HPV types 16 and 18. Their future research plans include investigating the role of non-cancer-causing HPV strains on cancers of the cervix, mouth, and skin, as well as developing improved diagnostic tests.

For more formation visit NYU.edu.