Transmission of human papillomavirus in heterosexual couples

Emerg Infect Dis. 2008 Jun;14(6):888-94. doi: 10.3201/eid1406.070616.


We examined the transmission of human papillomavirus (HPV) in 25 heterosexual, monogamous couples (25 men, 25 women), followed up over an average of 7.5 months. A total of 53 heterosexual transmission events were observed among 16 couples (14 male-to-female and 39 female-to male). Sexual transmission involved 13 different oncogenic and nononcogenic HPV types; 8% were vaccine-covered types transmitted between partners. The overall rate of HPV transmission from the penis to the cervix was 4.9/100 person-months, which was substantially lower than that from the cervix to the penis (17.4/100 person-months). Transmission between the hands and genitals, as well as apparent self-inoculation events (primarily in men), were also observed. Couples who transmitted HPV were more sexually active and used condoms less frequently. These results have implications for HPV prevention and control strategies, including the targeting of prophylactic vaccines.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Cervix Uteri / virology
  • Condoms / statistics & numerical data
  • Disease Transmission, Infectious
  • Female
  • Heterosexuality*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Papillomaviridae / classification
  • Papillomaviridae / genetics
  • Papillomaviridae / isolation & purification*
  • Papillomavirus Infections / transmission*
  • Papillomavirus Infections / virology
  • Penis / virology
  • Sexual Behavior*
  • Sexual Partners*