Possible non-sexual modes of transmission of human papilloma virus

J Obstet Gynaecol Res. 2017 Mar;43(3):429-435. doi: 10.1111/jog.13248. Epub 2017 Feb 6.


Aim: There is strong evidence to suggest vertical and horizontal modes of transmission of human papilloma virus (HPV), an established etiologic agent of cervical cancer. Infants, children, and adults can acquire both high-risk and low-risk infections by birth or by close contact even though HPV is mainly transmitted sexually. A thorough review of the literature was performed to assess the possible non-sexual modes of transmission of HPV.

Methods: An electronic search of databases for review articles, cross-sectional studies, cohort studies, and case reports on non-sexual modes of transmission among sexually unexposed women and children was carried out using search terms such as "human papilloma virus, HPV, transmission, horizontal transmission, vertical transmission, and fomites". Articles published between 1983 and 2015 were retrieved.

Results: Epidemiological and clinical data support various non-sexual modes of transmission especially at the time of birth and by close contact. Even though the role of fomites in the transmission of HPV is not well established, HPV-DNA positivity has been reported in transvaginal ultrasound probes and colposcopes after routine disinfection.

Conclusion: Awareness needs to be spread among the public about alternate modes of transmission. For a proper understanding of the exact natural history of HPV infection acquired via the non-sexual route, long-term prospective studies need to be undertaken.

Keywords: fomite; horizontal transmission; human papilloma virus; vertical transmission.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Female
  • Fomites / virology
  • Humans
  • Infectious Disease Transmission, Vertical*
  • Papillomaviridae / pathogenicity*
  • Papillomavirus Infections / epidemiology*
  • Risk Factors
  • Uterine Cervical Neoplasms / virology