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Breast Milk Is a Potential Vehicle for Human Papillomavirus Transmission to Oral Mucosa of the Spouse

Louvanto, Karolina MD, PhD*†‡; Sarkola, Marja MD, PhD*; Rintala, Marjut MD, PhD; Syrjänen, Kari MD, PhD, FIAC§; Grenman, Seija MD, PhD; Syrjänen, Stina DDS, PhD†¶

The Pediatric Infectious Disease Journal: July 2017 - Volume 36 - Issue 7 - p 627–630
doi: 10.1097/INF.0000000000001546
Original Studies

Background: Human papillomavirus (HPV) DNA has been detected in breast milk, but its origin has remained obscure. The aim of the study was to analyze the prevalence and persistence of HPV in breast milk in the Finnish Family HPV cohort study. The association of breast milk HPV positivity with the family members’ oral HPV status was evaluated.

Methods: We included 308 families to the study where the mother was breast feeding her offspring. Mothers collected the milk samples manually at day 3, and at months 2, 6 and 12. Cervical and/or oral samples were collected from all family members. HPV testing was performed using nested polymerase chain reaction and Luminex-based Multimetrix kit.

Results: Breast milk HPV DNA was found in 10.1% (31/308), 20.1% (39/194) and 28.8% (17/59) of samples at day 3, months 2 and 6, respectively. The following HPV genotypes were detected: 6, 16, 18, 33, 45, 53, 56, 59, 66 and 82. Breast milk HPV persisted among 5.5% (9/164) of the lactating mothers. No significant associations were detected between the persistent breast milk HPV and the offspring’s oral incident HPV infection. Breast milk HPV positivity showed a strong association with the fathers’ oral HPV positivity at baseline, as well as at 6- and 12-month follow-up visits, with odds ratio (OR) = 3.24 [95% confidence interval (CI): 1.04–10.12], OR = 6.34 (95% CI: 1.84–21.89) and OR = 14.25 (95% CI: 1.16–174.80), respectively.

Conclusions: HPV in breast milk is prevalent among the lactating mothers and HPV can also persist in breast milk. The breast milk is a potential vehicle for HPV transmission to oral mucosa of the spouse but not of the offspring.

From the *Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Helsinki University Hospital, University of Helsinki, Helsinki, Finland; Department of Oral Pathology and Radiology, University of Turku, Turku, Finland; Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Turku University Hospital, University of Turku, Turku, Finland; §Department of Clinical Research, Biohit Oyj, Helsinki, Finland; and Department of Pathology, Turku University Hospital, Turku, Finland.

Accepted for publication July 25, 2016.

This study was funded by the Academy of Finland (#116438/2006, #130204/2008), Finnish Cancer Foundation, Solberg Foundation, Finnish Dental Society Apollonia, and the Government Special Foundation (EVO) to Turku University Hospital.

The authors have no conflicts of interest to disclose.

Address for correspondence: Karolina Louvanto, MD, PhD, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Helsinki University Hospital, University of Helsinki, Haartmaninkatu 2, Helsinki PL 140, 00029 HUS, Finland. E-mail:

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