How is the human papillomavirus transmitted: routes of HPV infection

Papillomavirus is one of the most common infections affecting any age group. The danger is the combination of infection manifestations with the development of oncology. To avoid infection, you need to know how HPV is transmitted.

Foci of human papillomavirus are located on the hands

Routes of transmission of human papillomavirus

Papillomavirus is an infection that is found everywhere, this is due to its high contagiousness, the variety of types of virus, and the ability to remain unharmed in the environment, being in exfoliated keratinized cells of the epidermis. The disease remains in the body without manifestations; a person does not suspect for a long time that he is a carrier of HPV. The virus is dangerous because some types have an oncogenic risk and are associated with cancer.

Human papillomavirus has many different routes of infection and transmission involving direct contact.

Sexual intercourse

According to research, the main route of transmission of genital HPV is sexual contact. Both men and women can be carriers of HPV. When infected during sexual intercourse without a condom with a virus carrier, the pathogen penetrates the basal layer of stratified squamous epithelium and infects cells. It can be in an episomal state, not integrated into the genome of the host cell, or in an integrated (built-in) state. HPV is in the epidermis in an inactive state. Despite the absence of clinical symptoms, the likelihood of infecting a partner remains. During sexual intercourse, microtraumas of the mucous membrane occur, which contributes to the release of the pathogen to the surface and infection of the partner.

When condylomas appear, the infectiousness increases. The cells contain mature viral particles that bud out onto the surface of the mucous membrane or skin. Condylomas are dangerous, they are sources of HPV.

The occurrence of condylomas is typical for HPV genotypes 6 and 11. They are found in 70% of cases of visits to gynecology.

Growths due to this transmission mechanism have a characteristic localization in the intimate area:

  • external, internal genitalia;
  • anal area;
  • mucous membrane of the oral cavity.

In men, the head, foreskin, and external opening of the urethra are affected. In women - the outer and inner labia, vagina, perineum, perianal area.

Removal of genital warts is an important stage of treatment that should not be neglected.

A sign of HPV infection is the appearance of papillomas on the body

Household way

You can become infected with HPV in everyday life. It is typical for vulgar warts, for which the place of appearance is the fingers, periungual ridges, the outer surface of the hands, the forearm, the face, and other parts of the body. Family members of the sick person (parents, children) are affected. The papillomavirus gets to another person when using shared hygiene products (towel, shoes), shaking hands, wearing the same clothes, hugging.

There is a chance of infecting others when visiting crowded places. This applies to swimming pools, saunas, baths, where the risk of HPV transmission is high.

Through a kiss

Sometimes any type of HPV is transmitted through an ordinary kiss, affecting the mucous membranes of the mouth and facial skin. Types 6 and 11 most often affect the mouth. They are found in 90% of cases with genital warts. Strains 2, 16, 18, 33 may occur, with varying degrees of oncogenicity.

Saliva contains infected exfoliated epithelium. During a kiss, part of the skin enters the other person's body. Transmission of infection occurs. Violation of the integrity of the mucous membrane contributes to infection. Minor injuries that occur during brushing teeth or eating hot, rough foods are not noticed in the oral cavity. This disrupts the local protection of biological barriers.

From mother to child

If the expectant mother was infected before pregnancy, then the disease can progress to the stage of advanced clinical signs during pregnancy due to hormonal changes. If these are vulgar warts and there is no damage to the genital organs, there is nothing to be afraid of. It is enough to constantly see a doctor. If the genitals are affected, there is a possibility that the child will become infected when passing through the birth canal. The skin, mucous membranes of the mouth, pharynx, and upper respiratory tract are affected. The disease can be recurrent and lead to papillomatosis, affecting the vocal cords and larynx.

Transmission to an infant is not possible through milk during breastfeeding and through blood through the placenta.

Are papillomas on the body contagious?

The skin of the body is affected by vulgar, flat, plantar warts. Each of them differs in appearance and structure.

Transmission occurs through contact with affected skin. Promotes damage to the stratum corneum of the epidermis. HPV foci are located on the hands, the infection spreads quickly. The appearance of warts is caused by a type 2 virus, which has a low oncogenic risk and is considered safe. Warts are characteristic of childhood and puberty. They usually go away on their own within two years.

Flat papillomas are caused by types 3 and 5. Typical locations are the face and hands. Characteristic of adolescence.

Plantar warts are caused by type 1. Appear in places of constant rubbing and pressure from shoes. It is transmitted through household contact through the use of shared shoes, foot towels, and in swimming pools.

Normally, the body does not become infected with these types of warts upon first contact due to local immunity. But transmission is possible after the flu or a cold.

Genital HPV is acquired in 60% of cases during the first sexual contact. If a woman is infected, she is capable of transmitting the virus to 9 out of 10 of her partners. Due to the high contagiousness of condylomas, close contact, and the appearance of microtraumas.

Sexual contact is the main route of transmission of human papillomavirus

Can only one partner have HPV?

Only one partner may have HPV, but it is impossible to be 100% sure. Often people do not suspect that they are infected due to a long incubation period, neglect contraception, and infect their partner.

When one partner has a strong immune system, effective resistance to HPV is possible.

If the infection occurs in a latent state, the person does not suspect that he is sick. In this case, the virus is transmitted to the partner.

Is it possible to prevent infection?

Infection can be prevented by influencing trigger factors that contribute to the transmission of the disease. You must follow the rules:

  • rarely change sexual partners;
  • observe the rules of personal hygiene;
  • Do not use only slippers, linen, towels.

An effective way is vaccination. It is carried out from 9 to 26 years old, who have not had HPV. Vaccination is carried out at older ages, if there is no carriage of the virus. To do this, a diagnostic method is used to determine the presence of papillomavirus DNA. There are two vaccines. They allow you to develop specific immunity and prevent infection with the most common, dangerous strains - 6, 11, 16 and 18. To vaccinate boys, one of the vaccines is used; there are no results from using the second vaccine on men.

At the moment, only a few countries have added vaccines to the mandatory list (USA, UK).

Vaccines provide immunity for up to 5 years. Transfer is not possible during these years.

Prevention of complications

There are several stages to prevent the development of cancer in women:

  • primary prevention;
  • secondary;
  • tertiary

Primary prevention methods include vaccination.

Secondary prevention involves undergoing examinations by medical specialists (dermatologist, gynecologist) in order to timely identify a precancerous condition (cervical erosion, dysplasia, polyps) and treatment.

Tertiary treatment includes a set of therapeutic measures for the treatment of subclinical, clinical forms of HPV, including drug therapy and hardware removal of growths.

At the moment, vaccination is considered the most effective way to prevent transmission of infection.