A new study by researchers from The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston suggests that an extract from a Japanese mushroom has potential to eradicate human papillomavirus – the leading cause of cervical cancer.

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Researchers say that an extract from shiitake mushrooms – AHCC – may have potential to eradicate HPV.

Principal investigator Judith A. Smith, associate professor in the Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Sciences at the university, recently presented the team’s findings at the 11th International Conference of the Society for Integrative Oncology in Houston, TX.

Human papillomavirus (HPV) infections are the most commonly transmitted sexual infections in the US. The virus is the main cause of cervical cancer in women, with two types – HPV 16 and HPV 18 – accounting for around 70% of all cases.

HPV is also accountable for around 95% of anal cancers, 65% of vaginal cancers, 60% of oropharyngeal cancers, 50% of vulvar cancers and 35% of penile cancers.

Although there are two HPV vaccines available to help prevent women from becoming infected, Smith and colleagues note there are no effective treatments for the virus.

As such, the team set out to assess the effects of active hexose correlated compound (AHCC) against HPV. AHCC is a substance produced by the shiitake mushroom, also called the Japanese mushroom, native to Asia.

AHCC is already available as a nutritional supplement, hailed for its immune-boosting properties. Previous studies, however, have suggested that the compound may improve the growth and function of cells that ward off infections and prevent tumor growth.

To reach their findings, Smith and colleagues enrolled 10 women to their study who had tested positive for HPV infection. Once a day for up to 6 months, each woman took an oral formulation of AHCC.

Five of these women tested negative for HPV infection after 3 months of AHCC use. Among three of the participants, it was confirmed that HPV had been completely eradicated after AHCC use had ceased. The remaining two women needed to take AHCC for the full 6 months to see results.

The team’s findings are “very encouraging,” according to Smith. “We were able to determine that at least 3 months of treatment is necessary, but some need to extend that to 6 months,” she says, adding:

Since AHCC is a nutritional supplement with no side effects and other immune-modulating benefits, we will be planning on using 6 months of treatment in our phase 2 clinical study to have a consistent study treatment plan. This confirms our earlier preclinical research.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), almost all men and women contract HPV at some point in their lives, but many are unaware of it.

Earlier this year, Medical News Today reported on a study claiming that two thirds of healthy American adults may be infected with one or more of 109 HPV strains.