A study of human papillomavirus on vaginally inserted sex toys, before and after cleaning, among women who have sex with women and men

Sex Transm Infect. 2014 Nov;90(7):529-31. doi: 10.1136/sextrans-2014-051558. Epub 2014 Apr 16.


Objectives: The objective of the study was to determine the potential of human papillomavirus (HPV) transmission via shared sex toys, and determine whether cleaning practices implemented by the study participants were effective.

Methods: Vibrator 1 was composed of thermoplastic elastomer. Vibrator 2 was composed of silicone. Twelve women, recruited from a university, used each vibrator on separate occasions and provided self-collected vaginal and vibrator samples (obtained from the vibrator shaft and handle), collected immediately after use, immediately after cleaning with a commercially available cleaner, and 24 h after cleaning. Vaginal and vibrator samples were assessed for HPV DNA by the Roche Linear Array HPV Genotyping Test.

Results: HPV was detected in the vaginal samples of 9/12 (75%) women. Vibrator 1 shaft swabs were HPV positive before cleaning in 89% (8/9), immediately after cleaning in 56% (5/9), and 24 h after cleaning in 40% (2/5) of those that were HPV positive immediately after cleaning. Vibrator 2 shaft swabs were HPV positive before cleaning in 67% (6/9), immediately after cleaning in 44% (4/9), and 24 h after cleaning in none.

Conclusions: HPV was detected on at least one vibrator immediately after use in the women with vaginal HPV. This supports the potential for HPV transmission via shared sex toy use, and is additionally supported by continued detection of HPV up to 24 h after standard cleaning. The data add to understanding of the range of sexual behaviours associated with HPV transmission, and the need for evidence-based recommendations for sex toy cleaning.

Keywords: HPV; Modes Of Transmission; Sexual Behaviour; Sexual Health; Women.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Bisexuality*
  • DNA, Viral / analysis*
  • Elastomers
  • Female
  • Fomites / virology*
  • Humans
  • Papillomaviridae / genetics
  • Papillomaviridae / isolation & purification*
  • Papillomavirus Infections / epidemiology*
  • Papillomavirus Infections / transmission
  • Silicones
  • Vaginal Smears
  • Young Adult


  • DNA, Viral
  • Elastomers
  • Silicones