Lack of effects on fertility and developmental toxicity of a quadrivalent HPV vaccine in Sprague-Dawley rats

Birth Defects Res B Dev Reprod Toxicol. 2008 Dec;83(6):561-72. doi: 10.1002/bdrb.20174.


Human papillomavirus (HPV) infection is one of the most common sexually transmitted diseases, with approximately half of the HPV-infected people being adolescents and young adults. A recently developed quadrivalent HPV vaccine, GARDASIL((R)), has been shown to be highly effective in the prevention of a number of HPV-mediated diseases. The objective of the present study was to evaluate the potential effects of the vaccine on female fertility and F1 development, growth, behavior, and reproductive performance. In addition, anti-HPV antibodies in the F0 females and F1 offspring were measured during the study. Two groups of 65 virgin Sprague-Dawley rats were administered two or four intramuscular injections of the vaccine (full human dose of 0.5 mL at 5 and 2 weeks prior to mating, on Gestation Day [GD] 6, and Lactation Day [LD] 7; or GD 6 and LD 7 only). Additional groups of rats were administered phosphate-buffered saline or Merck Aluminum Adjuvant (MAA) at the same four times. All females were mated to males of the same stock. Cesarean sections were performed on 22/group on GD 21, 22/group were allowed to deliver, and remaining females used for blood collections or replacements. F0 female fertility parameters were evaluated. An extensive number of prenatal, perinatal, and postnatal parameters were evaluated in the F1 generation. There were no unscheduled deaths during the study. There was no evidence of toxicity in the F0 females given either MAA or vaccine. There were no effects on the fertility or reproductive performance of the F0 females. There was no evidence of developmental toxicity to the F1 generation, including fetal body weight and morphology, postnatal growth and development, behavior, and reproductive performance. The quadrivalent vaccine induced a specific antibody response to the four HPV types in the F0 female rats following one or multiple injections. Antibodies against all four HPV types were transferred to the F1 generation during gestation and/or lactation, likely via the placenta and milk, respectively. The passively transferred antibodies persisted up to Postnatal Day 77 when they were last measured. These results demonstrate that this quadrivalent HPV vaccine had no detectable adverse effects in either the treated F0 female rats or the F1 generation.

MeSH terms

  • Alphapapillomavirus / pathogenicity*
  • Animals
  • Antibodies, Viral / biosynthesis
  • Antibodies, Viral / immunology
  • Behavior, Animal / drug effects
  • Body Weight / drug effects
  • Female
  • Fertility / drug effects*
  • Fetal Development / drug effects*
  • Fetus / drug effects*
  • Fetus / immunology
  • Human Papillomavirus Recombinant Vaccine Quadrivalent, Types 6, 11, 16, 18
  • Humans
  • Lactation / drug effects
  • Male
  • No-Observed-Adverse-Effect Level
  • Organ Size / drug effects
  • Papillomavirus Infections / immunology
  • Papillomavirus Infections / prevention & control*
  • Papillomavirus Vaccines / toxicity*
  • Pregnancy
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Reproduction / drug effects


  • Antibodies, Viral
  • Human Papillomavirus Recombinant Vaccine Quadrivalent, Types 6, 11, 16, 18
  • Papillomavirus Vaccines