4 Facts About HPV You Need to Know

April 23, 2014

The human papilloma virus (HPV) is the most widespread sexually transmitted virus and 80 per cent of the world’s population will contract it once.

1. There are more than 100 types of HPV

HPV affects the skin and any moist membranes such as the lining of the mouth, throat, cervix and anus. Different types affect different parts of the body and cause different lesions.

Each different type has been assigned a number and approximately 40 strains of HPV affect the genital area. These are then divided into low risk strains which have no risk for cancer and those which can cause cancer.

The low risk types, such as HPV 6 and 11 cause non-cancerous genital warts. High risk types such as HPV 16 and 18 can cause cervical cancer and cancers of the anus, vagina, vulva, penis and some head and neck cancers.

2. Most cases of cervical cancer are caused by just two strains of HPV

Two strains of HPV (types 16 and 18), cause the vast majority of cervical cancers. Those infected typically have no symptoms for many years before cancer develops. Many men who are infected with HPV will not have any symptoms.

3. Sperm donors CAN be screened for HPV

Most sperm banks only do a physical exam to gather information about possible HPV infection. This will miss many men who are indeed infected and could pass the virus in their sperm donations.

Our view is that self-reported medical histories and physical examinations are insufficient to screen for HPV and that a DNA based test provides an additional level of safety to our donor sperm. The medical literature supports our position.

Since 2001, we have been testing the semen of our donors for HPV 16 and 18 at the time they are being screened for initial donor eligibility, and thereafter every three months while they are donating. By testing semen samples at 3 month intervals, we increase the chances of detecting the presence of HPV earlier than via the visual detection methods typically performed during a routine physical exam given at 6 month intervals in most tissue banking operations.

We cite a study (Human Papillomavirus DNA Detection in Sperm Using Polymerase Chain Reaction, Obstet Gynecol 2001;97:357-60) that concludes: “HPV is present in sperm cells from infected and apparently healthy subjects, and sperm washing does not eliminate the risk of HPV transmission to recipients. We suggest that HPV DNA testing should be done on the semen of prospective donors, and those with positive tests should be excluded from donation.”

4. Fairfax Cryobank is the ONLY sperm bank doing DNA based testing for HPV

The HPV testing was developed at the Molecular Infectious Disease Laboratory (MIDL) of the Genetics & IVF Institute. MIDL was established in 1998, and is a cutting edge CLIA-certified facility dedicated to infectious disease diagnostics using exclusively high sensitivity PCR (DNA) amplification methods. Prior to offering the HPV test in 2001, approximately 10,000 assays were performed. MIDL is directed by Brian D. Mariani, Ph.D., who has 25 years experience in molecular genetics, microbiology and biotechnology and was trained at Stanford and Harvard universities. The lab participates in the College of American Pathology nucleic-acid amplification survey program (including HPV detection) and maintains a 100% accuracy score.

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