[Question #764] HPV Immunity

52 months ago
in 1994 a urologist vinegar checked small growths on my penis and removed them. they reappeared in the same area a year later and he did the same. i remarried in 1999 and in 2000 my wife developed mild dysplasia which was surgically removed. the growths (4 or 5) had been in place for 10-15 years before removal and looked more like tags of skin than clumps. nonetheless, given the dysplasia, we have assumed they were genital warts.

since then i have had no visible warts or lesions and my wife has had all normal pap smears. we are currently 69 years old and monogamous since 1999. are we each considered to be free of active infection and/or immune to the presumed original strain(s) of hpv in the sense that we can have genital/semen contact in all parts of our bodies (oral, anal, etc.) without fear of developing hpv genitally or elsewhere on our bodies? our question pertains only to the any strain present prior to 1999.  i don't know exactly what reactivation means but i would like to apply the question to a possible (?) reactivation of the original strain as well. thank you.
H. Hunter Handsfield, MD
H. Hunter Handsfield, MD
52 months ago
Welcome to the forum. Thank you for your question and your confidence in our services.

My guess is your genital growths were not warts, but skin tags, which are just likely to recur after surgical removal as warts would be. The acetic acid (vinegar) evaluation is now known to be highly unreliable, so that 24 year distant evaluation can't be relied on. Even if they had been warts at the time, probably your wife's cervical dysplasia had nothing to do with them. For the most part, different HPV types cause warts and pre-cancerous cervical dysplasia.

Of course, 90% of all sexually active people have genital HPV at one time or another, and your wife obviously did when her pap smear was abnormal. But I see no reason to be concerned that either you or your wife still has a persisting HPV infection. While it is not possible to rule out future reactivation, the chance of it is very low. There is no cause for concern.

I hope this has been helpful. Let me know if anything isn't clear. Best wishes--

HHH, MD

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52 months ago
Thank you, Dr. Handsfield. I have read that, even with reactivation or persistent infection, presuming monogamy and no new strains, my wife and I through these years have developed immunity from infection of the original strain(s)/infection(s) throughout our bodies (ie, oral, anal, etc.) and not just at the site of the original infection(s) and we need not worry about "spreading" the original strains to oral, anal through our touching or semen. Is this true?

As concerns anyone's current infection of HPV, is it transmissible via indirect contact such as (a) I touch urine of infected person on toilet then touch my genitals or (b) infected person touches genitals, shakes my hand and I touch my genitals?

Thank you.
H. Hunter Handsfield, MD
H. Hunter Handsfield, MD
52 months ago
You are correct about immunity to HPV. Recent research shows that new infection with the same HPV type had previously is significantly reduced, but new infection ssometimoe occur. However, couples with mutual HPV infections are not known to "ping pong" their infections back and forth. Anyway, as noted above, I very much doubt you still have an active HPV infection at this time. And no, HPV is definitely not transmitted by indirect exposure as you describe. Without sex, no risk.

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52 months ago
Thanks again, Dr. Handsfield.  My wife and I very much appreciate your time and concise responses.
H. Hunter Handsfield, MD
H. Hunter Handsfield, MD
52 months ago
Thanks for your thanks. Take care.---