Research conducted in Australia has found that the human papillomavirus vaccine has been extremely effective in reducing the number of genital wart cases in the country.
Early data indicated that two years after the vaccine was introduced, the number of genital warts diagnoses declined by 59 percent in vaccine-eligible women - those between the ages of 12 and 26 - and by 39 percent in heterosexual men. In the same time period, there was a significant decrease in the incidence of high-grade cervical abnormalities in females younger than 18 years old.
However, scientists from the University of New South Wales and Melbourne Sexual Health Center embarked on a study to measure the ongoing effect of the vaccine, five years after a national program began to offer the vaccine for free to eligible Australians. They collected data from eight sexual health service centers across Australia, and they found that the number of women diagnosed with genital warts was 10 percent in 2007, but dropped to just 3 percent after the free vaccines were made available. Additionally, 11 percent of women younger than 21 years old were diagnosed with the sexually transmitted disease in 2007, but rates went down to 0.85 percent when the vaccine became more common.
"All indications are that the program has been an overwhelming success," study author Basil Donovan, M.D., told HealthDay News. "But we won't be certain until HPV-related cancers [also] start dropping."
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that HPV is the most common STD in the nation, affecting as many as 79 million Americans. The government agency recommends the HPV vaccine for girls and boys between the ages of 11 and 12, as well as women up until age 26 and heterosexual men up to age 21.
Besides causing genital warts, HPV infection can lead to cervical cancer and other genital cancers.