Danny Rose, Medical Writer
May 9, 2009 – 12:24AM
Genital wart infections have plunged in just 12 months since the national rollout of Gardasil vaccines, and a health expert says there is now hope of eradicating it altogether.
New cases of the sexually transmitted infection have halved in Australian women aged under 28, says Professor Christopher Fairley, director of Melbourne Sexual Health Centre.
Fewer young men have also presented to the clinic as new genital wart cases since January 2008, the effective start of protection under the National Human Papillomavirus (HPV) Vaccination Program.
Prof Fairley says early indications from his centre, which reviewed 36,000 new patient contacts going back to 2004, was that the vaccine rollout was having a “dramatic” affect on community-level sexual health.
“The vaccinations started in the middle of 2007 and, by the beginning of 2008, we started to notice quite a decline in the number of women under 28 attending the centre with genital warts,” he told AAP.
“It fell to about half of what it had been previously and we’ve also seen about a 20 per cent decline in heterosexual men as well.
“It’s a very significant public health observation.”
Gardasil, developed by 2006 Australian of the Year Professor Ian Frazer, is given to young Australian women via three injections and the vaccine then offers protection against four strains of HPV.
These strains are known to cause 70 per cent of cervical cancers and 90 per cent of genital wart cases.
Prof Fairley says young women were no longer contracting genital warts at the same rate they did before the vaccine rollout, and men were also benefiting as they are no longer being infected by vaccinated women.
The research into Melbourne-based genital wart cases was also a promising indicator the vaccine program would achieve its aim of a massive drop in potentially fatal cervical cancer cases.
“The abnormalities that the vaccine protects against in the cervix take much longer to appear,” Prof Fairley says.
“So, the first thing you’re going to see in the successful operation of this vaccine is genital warts go away, and some time later you might see changes in the number of women with abnormal (pap smears).”
But, the incidence rate in gay men hasn’t declined, indicating the lower
heterosexual rates are due to the vaccination of women, he said.
If infections in women continue to halve every year, Prof Fairley says, new genital wart cases could effectively be halted within a couple of years.
“This is the first time that we have a real prospect of genital warts becoming a historic phenomenon … the prospect that genital warts will become quite uncommon in heterosexuals in Australia,” Prof Fairley says.
“It’s currently halving every year. It won’t take long (to be gone) and it’s solely due to the vaccine.”
Comment from Leslie
Well, maybe genital wart incidences have gone down – but at least for women genital wart outbreaks are cyclical and most occur right before the menstrual cycle. So there is still a great deal of missing information on when the outbreak was noted and when the re-testing was done.
With all the conflicting information about Big Pharma – their marketing strategies and lack of integrity – it is hard to totally believe an article like this and buy into it hook line and sinker.
And ok, so what is the HPV vaccine is reducing the rates of GW – where can we get data on the number of women with neurological problems after taking this vaccine. Maybe they are wart free – but at what cost?
The bottom line is that HPV may persist for life in many people, but at a level that never can be transmitted to another person and never causes late/recurrent in the vast majority of people. In other words, almost all infections clear up to the point that there is no health concern either for the infected person or his/her future sex partners. You are right that this usually occurs within a few months or up to 2 years after the initial infection.