More than 300,000 women worldwide die of cervical cancer each year. A significant driver for that number is the highly contagious human papillomavirus, HPV. There is a vaccine for the virus and a new study shows that the vaccine works better than the researchers thought.
When an international research team investigated how good protection the HPV vaccine provides, they saw that the vaccine not only protected against the HPV variants they were developed to protect against but also against other variants. There are over 200 variants of HPV and only 13 of these can cause cancer. Today, there are vaccines that can, as it was thought, protect against two or four variants. The study, however shows that the vaccine can be effective against other variants too.
Antibodies after 12 years
It was also previously unclear how long the vaccination provided any protection. To gain further insight into this the reserachers followed up on 3,000 16-17-year-old women who had been vaccinated in Finland to see if the vaccination was still effective after twelve years. It turned out that the women still had antibodies to HPV. This means that the vaccine provides a adequate protection at least twelve years after the treatment.
"Our studies explain why HPV vaccines seem to provide more comprehensive protection against different types of cancer than we previously knew. The results also show that tetravalent and divalent vaccines provide adequate protection for a long time" says the study's co-author Matti Lehtinen, researcher at the Department of Laboratory Medicine at Karolinska Institutet and research leader at Tampere University in Finland, in a press release.
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