Sexual Health news - Women’s Sexual Health

HPV in older women may be a reactivated virus, not new infection

Genital human papillomavirus (HPV) is the most common sexually transmitted infection (STI), according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. There are more than 40 strains of the virus that can infect the genitals, mouth or throat of both males and females. Most people who are infected with the virus don't know they have it and don't experience any negative health consequences. This is because most infections are naturally cleared up within two years, the agency states.

However, sometimes this STI is not cleared, in which case it can cause warts in the throat or on the genitals, cervical cancer and other serious forms of cancer. New research published in The Journal of Infectious Diseases suggests that some women do not clear the infection naturally in youth, and the infection may still exist below limits of detection after one to two years. In these cases, women may develop HPV later in life due to the reactivation of a strain that was acquired years ago, not because of a new virus.

The study analyzed about 850 women, aged 35 to 60, who underwent routine cervical cancer screening from 2008 to 2011. According to HealthDay News, nearly 90 percent of HPV infections were detected in women who had more than one lifetime sexual partner, and 77 percent were detected among those who had five or more sexual partners within their lifetimes.

"Taken together, our data raise the possibility that reactivation risk may increase around age 50 years and contribute to a larger fraction of HPV detection at older ages, compared with new acquisition," wrote the research team, led by Patti Gravitt of Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and Perdana University Graduate School of Medicine in Malaysia.

These findings indicate the need for more research regarding HPV in order to prevent consequences like cervical cancer. Safer sex and fewer sexual partners can reduce a person's risk of contracting the virus and protect his or her sexual health.