[Question #5594] Could hpv transmit this way?

22 months ago
I have read that sharing of sex toys can potentially transmit hpv. I have also read that it is not transmitted via toilet seats.

However, if hpv infected genetalia were to touch a toilet seat and then someone elses genetalia touches that same spot on the toilet seat shortly after, what would be the difference between the toilet seat and the sex toy?
H. Hunter Handsfield, MD
H. Hunter Handsfield, MD
22 months ago
Welcome to the forum. Thanks for your succinct question.

There are no data on whether or not sex toys can transmit HPV or other STDs. I imagine there is slight risk, if toys are shared immediately, without time to dry from one person to the next, and if not wiped clean between uses. But any such risk is very low.

Toilet seats clearly are zero risk. First, most people don't actually touch their genitals to the seat surface. Second, once secretions dry, there is no risk for transmission of HPV or any other STD. Third, all three STDs transmitted skin to skin (HPV, herpes, syphilis) generally require massage of the virus into tissues for transmission to occur; simple superficial contact probably is insufficient. This is why the initial lesions of all three infections, including genital warts, usually appear at sites of maximum friction during sex (penile head in men, vaginal opening, labia minor, anus, etc). A general charcteristic of all STDs is that brief contact with small amounts of causative viruses or bacteria is generally risk free. In fact, this is why they are sexually transmitted in the first place:  less intimate contact doesn't transmit them.

These comments pretty well explain why sex toys might be higher risk than toilet seats:  more secretions, wet secretions with surving virus, sex toys generally not used with just brief or superficial touching.

I hope these comments are helpful. Let me know if anything isn't clear.

HHH, MD
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22 months ago
I actually thought of adding this to the question, but left it out. My male genitalia does happen to touch the rim of the toilet seat when sitting down or moving to wipe. With that being said, would you adjust your answer to possible transmission instead of zero risk?
H. Hunter Handsfield, MD
H. Hunter Handsfield, MD
22 months ago
This doesn't change my overall comments. Among other things, even the busiest STD clinics and dermatology practices never see patients with genital warts or other HPV issues who have not had sex. If toilet seats or other environmental contamination could transmit HPV or other STDs, there would be at least occasional patients without the traditional risks. Even on the rare occasions when someone claims to have not been sexually exposed, in my experience it always turns out they were wrong -- either because they were untruthful or because they forgot (alcohol, drugs, etc) or did not realize a partner was at risk for STDs.

The standard joke among STD specialists is "Can I get STDs on a toilet seat?", answer "Yes, but it's a pretty uncomfortable place for sex, don't you think?"
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22 months ago
Okay, but one last thing. You do realize hpv only requires skin-to-skin contact. Sex is not required. Why would you suggest that clinics have not seen hpv in somoene who has not had sex? Were you maybe intending to write "sexual contact" instead of sex?
H. Hunter Handsfield, MD
H. Hunter Handsfield, MD
22 months ago
You are misinformed. That some STDs are transmitted by skin-skin contact does not mean that ANY skin-skin contact can transmit them. Re-read my main reply above. The only skin-skin contact that transmits the genital types of HPV is direct genital contact. (I don't mean anything different between "sex" and "sexual contact".)---