Background: The human papillomaviruses (HPV) are simple, nonenveloped, double-stranded DNA viruses, which are responsible for an enormous global burden of genital disease. HPV is associated with 500,000 new cases of cervical cancer and 250,000 cervical cancer deaths worldwide each year. Oncogenic HPV types 16 and 18 are responsible for a majority of cervical cancers and can also cause low- and high-grade cervical lesions (CIN 1, 2, 3) as well as high-grade vulvar or vaginal intraepithelial neoplasia (VIN or VaIN 2/3). Nononcogenic types HPV 6 and 11 also contribute to the overall burden of HPV disease, giving rise to CIN 1, anogenital warts, cutaneous lesions, and respiratory papillomatosis.
Perspectives: A substantial body of clinical evidence demonstrates the effectiveness of cytological screening in preventing cervical cancer, but these techniques have not eradicated the disease and are not widely available in most developing countries. Furthermore, evaluation and management of HPV-associated cytologic abnormalities is costly, drains health care resources, and increases the risk for adverse pregnancy outcome.
Conclusions: Targeting cervical cancer through universal immunization with a quadrivalent HPV 6, 11, 16, 18 vaccine may herald the beginning of the end of this deadly disease and substantially reduce the overall global burden of HPV-related genital diseases.