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HPV Infection Unlikely to Spread From Hand Contact

Risk for new infection largely due to partners' genital HPV infection, not virus detectable on hands

pap test

FRIDAY, March 1, 2019 (HealthDay News) -- The majority of genital human papillomavirus (HPV) infections are likely to be caused by genital-to-genital sexual transmission, not hand-to-genital contact, according to a study published online Feb. 8 in The Lancet Infectious Diseases.

Talia Malagón, Ph.D., from McGill University in Montreal, and colleagues followed up 264 female university students (aged 18 to 24 years) and their male sexual partners (291 men). Women were examined at baseline and every four to six months for up to 24 months, while men had a baseline visit and a single follow-up visit four months later. Hand and genital swab samples were tested for DNA of 36 HPV types using polymerase chain reaction.

The researchers found that after adjustment for male genital HPV status, the hazard ratio (HR) was 0.5 (95 percent confidence interval, 0.1 to 1.8) for incident detection of HPV in genital samples from women when the male partner was positive for the same HPV type on his hand. Similarly, the adjusted HR of incident detection of HPV on men's genitals was 2.3 (95 percent confidence interval, 0.9 to 6.2) when his partner was positive for the same HPV type on her hand versus negative. Conversely, after adjustment for hand HPV status, the HR of type-specific incident detection of HPV in genital samples associated with partner genital HPV positivity was 19.3 for women and 28.4 for men.

"Clinicians can reassure their patients that HPV transmission is unlikely to occur through hand-to-genital contact," the authors write.

Two authors disclosed financial ties to pharmaceutical companies, including Merck, which partially funded the study.

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