Aug. 21 (UPI) -- Genital warts may increase the risk of sexually transmitting HIV, pointing scientists toward a possible strategy in preventing the disease's spread.
Researchers from Boston University School of Medicine studied biopsy samples of warts in the anus and genitals of people to determine the levels of cells that can become infected with the virus to those in normal tissue from the same areas of the body. The findings were published last week in the Journal of Infectious Disease.
Genital warts are among the 100 strains associated with human papillomavirus, or HPV, which is a common and highly infectious condition transmitted between persons during sexual skin-to-skin contact. In another venereal disease, blisters typically associated with genital herpes come from a different virus entirely: herpes simplex virus.
The warts had not been considered a major medical problem but research has emerged suggesting affected individuals are at greater risk for contracting HIV from an infected partner.
HPV is commonly treated but HIV, or human immunodeficiency virus, attacks the body's immune cells and can eventually prevent the body from properly fighting off infections, leading to acquired immunodeficiency syndrome, or AIDS.
In the study, genital wart samples were taken from HIV-uninfected men and cultured with HIV to determine whether these lesions were at high risk for infection.
Compared with normal tissue from the same patient, anogenital warts had a significantly higher density of HIV-target cells.
Among the warts found in the anus and genitals, approximately half had high concentrations of these cells in the outermost layer of skin -- the place most likely to be contacted during sexual intercourse.
Of the eight samples cultured with HIV, two showed definitive signs of HIV infection, signifying that some anogenital warts may be highly susceptible to HIV infection.
Corresponding author Dr. Deborah Anderson, a BUSM professor of obstetrics and gynecology, said these findings have potentially global implications.
"Large scale roll out of HPV vaccines in HIV-endemic areas, such as sub-Saharan Africa could significantly impact the HIV epidemic in those regions," she said in a press release.