Purpose of review
The aim of this review is to present for gynaecologists new information on human papillomavirus infections, their spontaneous evolution, and their consequences on the transformation of target tissues. It emphasizes the need for vaccination, both as a preventive tool and therapeutic agent, and reports the progress made so far.
Human papillomavirus infection is often transient and spontaneously reversible. High-risk human papillomavirus persistence is the major cause of cancerous transformation in several tissues. Preventive vaccination has already demonstrated remarkable efficacy against the development of some human papillomavirus type related anogenital lesions. Therapeutic vaccination has now also been developed to cure pre-existing lesions. Some new screening protocols can be derived from these experiments.
Both preventive and therapeutic human papillomavirus vaccinations will probably change our approach to the screening and therapy of human papillomavirus-related diseases in the next few years. The mass vaccination of adolescent patients should lower the frequency of these very frequently lethal infections.
Abbreviations CIN: cervical intraepithelial neoplasia; HPV: human papillomavirus; HSIL: high-grade squamous intraepithelial lesion; VLP: virus-like particle.