A new study on Gardasil sponsored by Merck who manufacture the vaccine, suggests that it protects against more types of Human Papillomavirus (HPV) than at first thought and it now offers protection against strains of HPV that cause 90 per cent of cervical cancers.

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved Gardasil last year as a new vaccine against cervical cancer and other diseases in females caused by HPV. This was on clinical evidence showing it protected against HPV 16 and HPV 18, that cause 70 per cent of cervical cancers, and HPV 6 and HPV 11, that cause 90 per cent of genital warts.

Now a new study of 11,000 girls and women aged from 15 to 26 found the vaccine to be 38 per cent effective against 10 further types of Human Papillomavirus (HPV) that are thought to cause 20 per cent of cervical cancers.

The research is the work of Dr Darren R Brown, professor of medicine, microbiology and immunology at Indiana University School of Medicine, Indianapolis, and colleagues. It was presented at a meeting of the American Society for Microbiology, reported WedMD News this week.

Brown conducted another study earlier this year where he showed that Gardasil was continuing to be nearly 100 per cent effective at preventing infection by HPV 16 and HPV 18 in its post market phase.

The new findings also show that Gardasil is 45 per cent effective against HPV types 45 and 31, also linked to cervical cancer, and it is 62 per cent at preventing precancerous lesions due to these two strains.

Brown told WebMD that it did not come as a suprise to find that the vaccine protects against other HPV strains than first thought because the strains are all related.

There has been much controversy in the US about cervical cancer vaccination because for it to be effective girls have to be vaccinated before they reach sexual maturity, at age 11 and 12 according to recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Many parents and interest groups say this interferes with parents’ rights, and at this age girls are too young for this type of intervention and that it might even promote promiscuity.

Brown told WebMD that he hoped this news will encourage more parents to have their teenage girls vaccinated.

HPV is the most common sexually transmitted disease among Americans. The CDC estimates that about 6.2 million Americans are infected with genital HPV every year and that half of all sexually active men and women will get it at some time in their lives.

Worldwide, cervical cancer is the second most common cancer among women, with 470,000 new cases and 233,000 deaths a year attributed to the disease.

Among American women, there are nearly 10,000 new cases of cervical cancer and 4,000 deaths, every year.

In most women, HPV is mopped up by the body’s immune system, and they do not go on to develop health problems. However some strains cause abnormality in cells that line the cervix, causing precancerous lesions that can become cancerous many years later.

It is important to continue with cervical cancer screening even after being vaccinated against HPV.

Click here for WebMD report on the new study.

Click here for more information about HPV (CDC).

Written by: Catharine Paddock