HPV highly prevalent in organ transplant recipients

A new study published in the American Journal of Transplantation reveals an association between certain types of human papillomavirus (HPV) infection and cutaneous squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) in organ transplant recipients (July 2011, Vol. 11:7, pp. 1498-1509).

HPV is known to cause cervical cancer and SCC in the anogenital area and also plays a role in some forms of head and neck cancer. SCC of the skin is increasing in incidence worldwide, and the risk is particularly high in immunosuppressed individuals, such as organ transplant recipients in whom rates are 100 times those of the general population.

Researchers led by Jan Nico Bouwes Bavinck, MD, PhD, and Mariet Feltkamp, MD, PhD, of Leiden University Medical Center studied a total of 210 organ transplant recipients with previous SCC and 394 controls without skin cancer. They assessed the presence of 25 types of betapapillomavirus (betaPV), which are a particular skin group of HPV, in plucked eyebrow hairs with simultaneous detection of antibodies to these viruses in blood.

Results show that betaPV infection is highly prevalent in organ transplant recipients; 94% of patients without skin cancers carried the DNA of the viruses in eyebrow hairs and 97% in those with a history of skin cancer. Furthermore, concordant presence of DNA and antibodies to the same betaHPV type is associated with an increased risk for SCC of the skin.

"Carriage of betaHPV types is extremely common in immunosuppressed individuals," Feltkamp stated in a press release. "Our research findings help to provide a clearer picture of the specific HPV types that may play a part in causing SCC, which ultimately may lead to novel preventative or therapeutic interventions."

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