Craig Meyers, a distinguished professor of microbiology and immunology at Pennsylvania State College of Medicine, and Richard Robison, an expert in microbial disinfectants at Brigham Young University, said HPV is estimated to be among the most common sexually transmitted diseases and is linked to cervical cancers.
"Because it is difficult to produce infectious HPV particles for research, little has been known about HPV susceptibility to disinfection," Meyers said in a statement.
For the study, the researchers grew HPV16, a specific strain that is responsible for up to 60 percent of all HPV-associated cancers. They then used 11 common disinfectants on the virus.
The disinfectants included ones made of ethanol and isopropanol because these are common ingredients in surface disinfectants and hand sanitizers used in both public and healthcare settings. While HPV is susceptible to certain disinfectants, including hypochlorite and peracetic acid, it is resistant to alcohol-based disinfectants, the researchers said.
"Chemical disinfectants in hand sanitizer are commonly used in the general population to prevent the spread of infectious diseases," Meyers said in a statement. "For flu or cold viruses they are very effective. But the data shows that they do nothing for preventing the spread of human papillomavirus."
The researchers also tested other common disinfectants, including glutaraldehyde, which is used for sterilization in medical and dental facilities and found it is not effective at inactivating the HPV virus.
"Chemical disinfectants used in the hospitals and other healthcare settings have absolutely no effect on killing human papillomavirus," Meyers said. "So unless bleach or autoclaving is used in the hospital setting, human papillomavirus is not being killed and there is a potential spread of HPV through hospital acquired or instrument or tool infection."
Other research has suggested HPV could be transmitted non-sexually. This current study showed medical instruments considered sterile could pose a risk for transmission, the study said.
The study was published in the Journal of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy.