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Human papillomavirus infections: Epidemiology and disease associations

Joel M Palefsky, MD
Section Editor
Martin S Hirsch, MD
Deputy Editor
Allyson Bloom, MD


Papillomaviruses are double-stranded DNA viruses that constitute the Papillomavirus genus of the Papillomaviridae family. These viruses are highly species specific; human papillomaviruses (HPV) infect only humans. There are more than 200 types of HPV, which can be subdivided into cutaneous or mucosal categories based upon their tissue tropism.

The epidemiology and disease associations of HPV infections will be reviewed here. The role of HPV in the pathogenesis of epithelial cancers is discussed elsewhere. (See "Virology of human papillomavirus infections and the link to cancer".)

The clinical manifestations, diagnosis, and management of HPV-associated diseases are discussed in the dedicated topic reviews.

Vaccination to prevent HPV infection and its associated diseases is also discussed elsewhere. (See "Human papillomavirus vaccination".)


Replication cycle — Human papillomaviruses (HPVs) are small, nonenveloped, capsid viruses with an eight kilobase circular genome that encodes eight genes, including two encapsulating structural proteins, L1 and L2 [1]. The L1 protein, expressed recombinantly in a cell-culture system, self-assembles in the absence of the viral genome to form a virus-like particle (VLP). The L1 VLP is the immunogen used in the HPV vaccines. L2 is the minor capsid protein that along with L1 mediates HPV infectivity [1,2].

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