Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938

Gen Y Says Bye to Genital Warts

By Stephen Luntz

Genital warts are becoming a thing of the past among younger Australians as a by-product of cervical cancer vaccination.

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Strains 16 and 18 of the human papillomavirus (HPV) cause the majority of cases of cervical cancer. Genital warts are most frequently a result of strains 6 and 11, so the Gardasil vaccine, based on the work of former Australian of the Year Prof Ian Frazer (AS, April 2006, p.9), was designed to protect against all four.

Cervical cancer takes a long time to show up so warts provide a good way to track the vaccine’s success.

Dr Tim Read of the Melbourne Sexual Health Centre says genital warts are more than a nuisance. “As a physician in a sexual health centre I used to keep a bottle of liquid nitrogen on my desk and could guarantee to have to remove warts several times a day,” he says. Cryotherapy did not always work, and in some cases “the treatment was worse than the disease” – as well as often being expensive.

Many treatments are considered unsafe for pregnant women, and in rare cases the warts are transmitted to children during birth – with serious consequences.

Australia has one of the most comprehensive HPV vaccination programs in the world, producing ideal conditions for Read, along with colleagues at the Kirby Institute, to study diagnoses for 85,770 visitors to sexual health clinics in Australia between 2004 and 2011. The results are now published in the British Medical Journal.

Reporting of warts by women under the age of 21...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.