The most common sexually transmitted infection in the United States, HPV (human papillomavirus) affects almost all sexually active Americans at some point in their lives. While vaccines are available to protect against some strains, the virus still represents a serious health threat.
Research out of the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston Medical School is offering new hope for treatment. At the center of the research is a Japanese mushroom extract known as AHCC, which was found to eradicate HPV in a recent study.
The 10 HPV-positive women who participated in the study took AHCC orally for up to six months. Half went on to achieve a negative HPV result, with three experiencing a complete eradication of the virus after stopping the AHCC treatment.
“Obviously, we’ve still got a long way to go,” said principal investigator Judith A. Smith, Pharm.D., an associate professor at UTHealth Medical School. “This was just five patients, so now we’ve got to do the true scientific comparison to a placebo, but I’m very optimistic.”
According to Smith, AHCC has been used for decades for its immune benefits. It’s also been used in the oncology arena to help improve the side effects associated with chemotherapy.
For the study, each woman had already been infected with an HPV high-risk strain. Over 40 different types of HPV currently exist. Some cause genital warts, but it’s HPV’s relationship with cervical cancer that is most significant. Researchers say that over 99 percent of cervical cancer cases are associated with the virus. HPV is also related to anal cancer, throat cancer and more.
“The big difference between our responders and non-responders in this study was that the five people who didn’t respond all did not receive a full course of treatment,” said Smith, who added that six months of treatment appears to be the magic number.
HPV is spread through sexual contact, which doesn’t have to include actual intercourse. According to the CDC, roughly 360,000 people in the U.S. get genital warts each year. Over 10,000 women get cervical cancer.
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