Two-Thirds of Your Friends Have HPV. Oh, You Probably Do, Too.

We’re all infected. Well, maybe not all, but about 70 percent of us. No, this isn’t a promo for “The Walking Dead,” it’s the result of a new study about the human papilloma virus (HPV).

That’s right. Of every three people, two of them are infected with some form of HPV. We’re talking about both men and women, by the way. However, this news isn’t as depressing as it might seem. As it turns out, many forms of HPV appear to be benign. Some may even act to keep the dangerous forms from harming us.

Researchers recently completed the largest and most detailed study done to date on HPV in healthy American adults. Using publicly available information from the National Institutes of Health’s Human Microbiome Project, researchers from New York University’s (NYU) Langone Medical Center studied the tissue DNA of 103 people aged 18 to 80. They found that almost two-thirds of them carried one or more of 109 different strains of HPV.

In total, there are 148 strains of HPV. Of those, a nasty handful are known to cause most cases of cervical cancer, cancers of the anus, penis, vulva and vagina, some throat and mouth cancers, as well as lesions and warts.

hpv under microscope

The other strains of HPV, while common, apparently don’t cause disease. In fact, according to this study, they may be serving to protect our bodies from the bad forms of HPV via a complex internal dance of viral checks and balances. More research into this phenomenon will certainly follow.

“Our study offers initial and broad evidence of a seemingly ‘normal’ HPV viral biome in people that does not necessarily cause disease and that could very well mimic the highly varied bacterial environment in the body, or microbiome, which is key to maintaining good health,” said senior study investigator, NYU Langone pathologist Zhiheng Pei, MD, PhD.

The study’s findings revealed the following:

  • Most study participants had HPV infections in the skin (61 percent); then vagina (41 percent), mouth (30 percent), and gut (17 percent).
  • Of the 71 study participants infected with HPV, 42 (59 percent) had HPV in only one organ, 22 (31 percent) had it in two organs, and seven (10 percent) had it in three; none had HPV in all four organs tested.
  • Skin samples contained one or more of 80 different types of HPV. Of those, 40 types were found only in the skin.
  • Vaginal tissue revealed 43 different HPV types. Twenty of those were found only in vaginal tissue.
  • Mouth tissue contained up to 33 HPV types. Five of those types were found only in the mouth.
  • Gut tissue revealed six types of HPV, all of which were also found in other organs.
  • Only four of the 103 people studied were infected with HPV 16 or HPV 18, the strains that cause cancer.

“[T]he HPV ‘community’ in healthy people is surprisingly more vast and complex than previously thought,” said the study’s lead researcher, Yingfei Ma, Ph.D. “[M]uch further monitoring and research is needed to determine how the various non-cancer-causing HPV genotypes interact with the cancer-causing strains, such as genotypes 16 and 18, and what causes these strains to trigger cancer.”

While this is mostly good news, don’t relax completely. Every year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 14 million people are newly infected with the forms of HPV that cause or trigger cancer. HPV is the most commonly sexually transmitted infection in the United States.

Overall, most HPV strains are transmitted sexually, which is why the vaccines developed to combat the dangerous strains are given to children in their pre-sexual years. However, there’s growing evidence showing transmission occurs by mere skin-to-skin contact as well.

Unless you plan to live inside a hermetically sealed plastic bag, you’re likely to be infected with some form of HPV in your lifetime. Chances are, if you’re sexually active, it’s already happened.

Photo credit (all images): Thinkstock


Jonathan Harper
Jonathan Harper2 years ago


Darlene Buckingham
shawn arscott3 years ago

"Dr. Slade reports that the risk of serious events including death after gardasil was 3.4/100,000 doses distributed. Dr. Harper then states that ‘the rate of serious adverse events is on par with the death rate of cervical cancer’. This figure is then corrected because the figure was determined by using the total number of doses that were produced by the manufacturer and many of these (one-third) are still sitting in the refrigerator waiting to be distributed. Therefore using a smaller denominator the incidence of serious adverse events is now 5 fold greater than the incidence of cervical cancer – which in fact varies between countries. This measure of harm is based on the assumption that the vaccine will prevent some cervical cancer.

In other words, we have seriously increased the amount of chronic illness and deaths in young women without a guarantee that cervical cancer will be reduced. Dr. Harper asks ‘how parents value this information?’ Parents are very angry that our trust in the medical profession has been betrayed by the governments who have not put the public interest first. Governments have allowed the pharmaceutical companies to fund Professional Medical Associations in order to influence the promotion of this vaccine to the public (9).

Darlene Buckingham
shawn arscott3 years ago

“In the interview Dr. Harper gave to CBS she stated that she believes “the public should receive more complete warnings before receiving the vaccine”. This is incorrectly stating the problem. Instead of ‘more complete warnings’ I believe it is extremely important that parents are given accurate information on Gardasil®. This drug has been promoted as a cervical cancer drug when in fact it has only been observed to prevent HPV infection (1).

Health authorities have claimed that this vaccine will be effective for 5 years. Considering this vaccine was tested for only 4 years in women 16 – 26 years of age, I think it is important that parents are informed how this information was generated. Parents would also like to know what ‘protection’ for 5 years actually means. Given that we have evidence it will protect against infection from HPV strains 16 and 18 but we have no evidence that it is the determining factor needed for carcinomas to form (3) (4). So it may prevent some cervical cancer (remembering that HPV does not cause cervical cancer on its own – another co-factor is required) assuming these 2 strains (16 and 18) are a determining factor in cancer development and assuming there is no infection from one of the other 12 HPV viruses known to be associated with cervical cancer development in humans (3) (4).
IInformation from Doctor Harper that questions the effectiveness and safe

Robert Hamm
Robert Hamm3 years ago

Exactly Bruce well said

Barbara D.
Past Member 3 years ago

Bruce C D, brilliant, accurate, unbiased information. Exactly what we need more of!

Karen S.
Karen S3 years ago


ERIKA S3 years ago

thank you for the good informations

Bruce C D.
Bruce C D3 years ago

To clear up some misinformation being presented by anti-vax proponents, those receiving the HPV vaccination are typically told and/or provided information about what the vaccine can and cannot do. The vaccine protects against some of the more prevalent harmful types. It is recommended by the CDC, WHO and the medical community. It isn't advertised as being a panacea against HPV, merely an effective aid in reducing the risks from developing certain kinds of cancer and genital warts caused by the more prevalent harmful types. Both vaccines protect against the two HPV types (HPV-16 and HPV-18) that cause 70% of cervical cancers, 80% of anal cancers, 60% of vaginal cancers, and 40% of vulvar cancers. These HPV types also cause most HPV induced oral cancers, and some other rare genital cancers. Gardasil also protects against the two HPV types (HPV-6 and HPV-11) that cause 90% of genital warts. While not inexpensive, the cost has continued to decline, making it even more cost effective to society for the proscribed usage than the money that would have otherwise been spent on treatment of cancers, besides helping to prevent the needless suffering and deaths that would otherwise occur from cervical and other cancers annually.

Mandy H.
Mandy H3 years ago

Surely if HPV was so common it would turn up in blood tests or in PAP tests. I've had just about every blood test under the sun and my doctor has never mentioned HPV, I've also had biopsies of my digestive system which also came up'd think someone undergoing tests for other things would find out if they've got some from of HPV. As to sexual activity and catching any STI it's really quite simple, don't have unprotected sex and only have sex with a partner whom you trust.
I fail to see why the end of the article needed to have the 'doom' message attached, there's really nothing to worry about if you've not got any symptoms. Plenty of illnesses can be found hanging around in our system without causing any problems, the chicken pox would be one and Glandular Fever or Mono is another. Therefore if you've ever kissed someone you could possibly have the Glandular Fever virus in your body without actually having any symptoms (carrier) and if you've had the chicken pox that's still running around dormant in your system but it's not an issue in most cases.

Jonathan Harper
Jonathan Harper3 years ago

not good