A new NYU Medical Center study shows that 69 percent of healthy American adults are infected with the human papillomavirus (HPV), but researchers suggest that may not always be a bad thing.
Researchers studied tissue from 103 healthy men and women from ages 18 to 80 and found that 61 percent of the participants had HPV on the skin, 41 percent in the vagina, 30 percent in the mouth, and 17 percent in the gut. But researchers believe that multiple strains act to keep the others in check, sort of like the microbes in the intestinal tract.
There are more than 100 known HPV strains, ranging from harmless and beneficial to extremely harmful. Two specific strains are linked to cervical, vaginal, penile, anal, and throat cancer, and 15 strains are connected to genital warts.
Experts warn that most will probably end up with some form of HPV. The best protection against harmful HPV is early vaccination – before the age of 26 – or condoms.