[Question #5376] HPV

24 months ago
Does the HPV test just test for the types of HPV that are known to be assoc. with cervical cancer?   Once tested as positive, the test can later be negative (cleared by the body?) Does the negative test simply mean the viral content has just become too small to detect?  What counseling is recommended for those with a positive test- I read somewhere that it could take up to two years to clear the body. 
24 months ago
DId I ask too many questions? Let me resubmit since I was able to find some of the answers on the site.
What is meant by the body "clearing" the virus: is it simply a matter of the viral content being too low to detect or is it the body completely ridding itself of the virus?  i.e. does the body cure itself of the virus in the "clearing" process?    Which vaccine now covers the most types?
Edward W. Hook M.D.
Edward W. Hook M.D.
24 months ago
Welcome to the Forum.  You did ask a lot of questions.  I'll try to answer them but if I miss some, you may ask for clarification or additional information using up to 2 follow-up questions.  Right at it:

1.  The current Gardasil 9 HPPV vaccine prevents 7 of the most common HPV types associated with cervical cancer, as well as the two HPV types (6 and 11) which cause over 90% of visible genital warts.

2.  Yes, tests that are positive can become negative.  This process is what we refer to as "clearance" and it reflects that fact that a person's body and immune system acts to control the virus.  With clearance most HPV infections become undetectable, on their own without therapy.  Therapy can accelerate this process

3.  Following clearance of infection, a person's risk for progression to pre-cancerous lesions and transmission to others goes away.  There may be tiny amounts of residual HPV DNA which remain present and which can be detected by sophisticated research tests but this should be of no consequence to that person.

4.  In terms of counseling, I am confident that if you looked at other posts on our site you will know that we do not feel strongly that it is necessary to notify sexual partners if you have an HPV infection and that it is not something to worry about.  Nearly all HPV infections are best managed by periodic observation and testing, usually at no more than every 6 months.  If abnormalities are found, depending on a person's age, sometimes additional tests are needed but this is almost never done in persons younger than 26-30.

5.  The Gardasil 9 vaccine is the HPV vaccine that covers the greatest number of HPV types.

I hope this information is helpful

24 months ago
Yes. Thank you for being so thorough with your responses.