HPV, or human papillomavirus, is the most common sexually transmitted infection (STI) in the US, with 1 in 4 people infected at some point in their lives. If untreated, fourteen strains of HPV can lead to cervical cancer.
Recently, a female-led team in Mexico developed a photodynamic therapy treatment that targets and kills unhealthy cells without harming healthy structures. Dr. Eva Ramos Gallegos of Mexico’s National Polytechnic Institute conducted a study on 449 women who were all infected with HPV. Of the women who had no precancerous lesions, the virus was 100% eradicated by the treatment. Of the women who had lesions, the virus was eliminated in 64%. Of those who had lesions but no active infection, the virus was eradicated in 57%.
Initially, the team had eliminated 85% of the disease in patients that had HPV with and without lesions. The therapy eliminated 42% of the virus in patients who had lesions without HPV. The team didn’t stop here but kept working to find a 100% effective treatment for the next study.
The therapy works by using drug called a photosensitizer that targets cells and makes them responsive to light. A laser is used on the affected area, which creates a toxic form of oxygen that kills the unhealthy cells. Photodynamic therapy was also effective in removing the bacteria in some STD related infections. Dr. Ramos Gallegos has been working on this treatment for twenty years, and her findings are a major breakthrough. Not only could they eventually bring an end to HPV, but could effectively end deaths from cervical cancer. Soon, this treatment could be widely accepted and save many lives.
There is a vaccine against HPV for children ages 11-12 that is highly recommended by doctors, as it can prevent many common HPV infections. Specifically, Gardasil-9 works to prevent the disease before there is any contact with the virus, specifically the nine types of HPV responsible for most HPV-related cancers and diseases.
This recent medical development is a great accomplishment, and the fact that it was discovered by a Mexican woman doctor is a true inspiration for all women seeking to achieve progress in medicine.
Photos courtesy of @IPN_MX on Twitter