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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    HPV study to reveal more about disease

    Roughly 20 million Americans have human papillomavirus, or HPV, and 5.5 million people contract the virus each year, according to the American Social Health Association – but one UA graduate student is doing his best to change that.

    “”There’s a lot to learn about HPV for scientists and the public,”” said Alan Nyitray, an epidemiology graduate student and coordinator of an ongoing HPV study. “”The public has a lot of bad information about HPV. We are trying to provide them with a better understanding of how the virus is transmitted and how to prevent the spread of the virus.””

    Nyitray is conducting a study of HPV in couples to add to previous studies. Nyitray assisted Robin Harris, an associate professor of public health, and Carrie Nielson, a graduate student and research associate at the UA Cancer Center, in an extensive cross-sectional 2005 study of HPV in males.

    “”This is a groundbreaking development in women’s health and maybe I can do my part to save young women’s lives.””
    – Sereti Fifield Venzin
    public health
    graduate student

    Harris and Nielson’s study focused on how often men contract the virus, the location of the virus and whether it is worth it to vaccinate men. The study also tried to determine if persisting infections can lead to cancer.

    Through two different studies, 463 men between 18 to 40 years old participated in the 18-month-long study. The men provided four different skin samples and a semen sample to researchers, who then identified different types of HPV DNA in the samples.

    There are 60 different strains of HPV, and 13 of them have been identified as contributing to cervical, penile and anal cancers in men and women. The remaining 47 types cause victims to develop genital warts.

    Types 16 and 18 together cause close to 70 percent of all cervical cancer cases. Most infected people show little or often no symptoms of infection. There is currently no cure for HPV, but most cases clear up on their own, Nielson said.

    In the past year, an FDA approved vaccine for HPV, called Gardasil, has been released to the public but it is designed only for females between ages 9 to 26. The Texas legislature recently passed a bill requiring middle school-aged girls to receive the vaccine, which is administered in three separate injections.

    Harris said Anna Giuliano, a leading cancer epidemology expert, laid the foundation for the men-only study and helped conduct tests in Tampa Bay, Fla., where 21 percent of the participating men lived. The remaining participants were from the Tucson area.

    Nyitray wanted to expand on their work and focus on HPV in couples and try to understand how men transmit the disease to women.

    The couple’s study consists of a journal that the subjects keep for 10 days describing their sex life, and then concludes with an HPV screening. Clinicians collect skin samples by using a sterilized swab. They collect skin samples from each man’s penis head, shaft, scrotum and perianal region, and they perform a pap smear on women as well as a perianal and labial swab.

    Fliers were put up across the UA campus and Tucson to find participants who are sexually active but don’t have a sexually transmitted disease. Sereti Fifield Venzin, a UA graduate student in public health, saw a flier and decided to take part in the study.

    Venzin said she wanted to contribute to the study because she is older than 26 and hopes to provide researchers with critical information for her age group.

    “”This is a groundbreaking development in women’s health and maybe I can do my part to save young women’s lives,”” Venzin said.

    Venzin suggested that others should participate in Nyitray’s study. “”The journal took very little effort and the final exam only took about 30 minutes,”” she said.

    Nyitray is seeking six additional couples to complete the study. He can be contacted by e-mail at

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