Gardasil Vaccine Efficient in Preventing HPV in Men and Boys
For the first time there is now definitive evidence that the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine, Gardasil, effectively prevents HVP in men and boys.
The study, published today in the New England Journal of Medicine, showed that the vaccine was 90 percent effective in preventing genital warts caused by HPV in men and boys between the ages of 9 and 26. This study is significant because males have a lower natural immune response to HPV than females. Therefore are more susceptible to infection as well as adverse effects such as genital warts.
HPV is the most common sexually transmitted infection today. It is estimated that anywhere between 75 to 80 percent of males and females will be infected by HPV in their lifetimes. Most people who have HPV do not develop symptoms and therefore are not aware that they have the infection. Furthermore, there is currently no test to detect HPV in men or women. Approximately 90 percent of HPV infections will clear on their own within two years. However, if the body's immune system is unable to fight the virus it can result in genital warts and cancers of the cervix, vulva, vagina, penis, anus, head and neck.
The researchers in the study looked at 4,065 healthy heterosexual and homosexual young men between the ages of 16 to 26 from 18 different countries. They found that of the most common strains of HPV, the vaccine was 66 percent effective. Of all types of HPV strains the vaccine was 60 percent effective and 90 percent effective against protecting against genital warts caused by HPV in men.
This study, although only measures the efficiency of the vaccine against infection with HPV, it can be assumed that this means it could also potentially prevent HPV related cancers in men as well. Each year HPV infections contribute to nearly 20,000 cases of cancer in the United States. Although less than 25% of these HPV related cancers occur in men, may subgroups such as homosexual men, have an increases risk for HIV related cancers such as anal cancer.
The HPV vaccine, Gardasil, has been available to girls and women since 2006 but only was approved by the FDA for use in boys and men in October of 2010. This is the fist study to provide support for this approval. Although the FDA provided permission for use, it stopped short of recommending routine vaccination of boys as is currently recommended for girls. With continued evidence, such as this study, to show the efficiency of the vaccines protection from HPV related diseases, perhaps the routine vaccination of boys with Gardasil will be in the near future.
There has been some opposition of the use of the HPV vaccine in teens. Particularly conservatives have expressed concerns with the vaccine encouraging promiscuity and subvert parental authority. However, the vaccine's evidence supporting a direct relationship between the vaccine and disease prevention in males changes the promotion of the vaccine from sex-specific to sex-neutral.
It is important to note that the Gardasil vaccine does not prevent all cases of HPV in men. In addition to receiving the three-series vaccine, men should use condoms and maintain monogamous relationships. The only way to guarantee prevention of HPV is to avoid all sexual activity.