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Strike a Chord: New Discovery Changes The Way Medical Industry Approaches Human Papillomavirus

by Stephanie Kuo
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blakespot, Flickr

WFUV's Strike a Chord campaign is focusing on urban health.

For years the HPV vaccine, either Gardasil or Cervarix, seemed to be doing the trick -- protecting women and men against strains of HPV responsible for 70 percent of cervical cancers. But it turns out the vaccine may not be enough for everyone.

"The African American and the Hispanic populations are at higher mortality rates than the White-Caucasian community for reasons that are still not entirely clear."

Patricio Meneses is a professor of biological sciences at Fordham University. He says It turns out the HPV vaccine on the market today doesn't actually cover the subtypes most commonly circulated among African Americans. New research shows the vaccine works most effectively against HPV 16 and 18. And while 65 percent of white women with HPV carry those subtypes, only 36 percent of African American women do. This means non-white women may not be getting the protection they need against the virus --- even if they're being properly immunized.

"It was really an eye-opener for everyone in the HPV field, really telling us that we need to somehow tailor our vaccines to the population that we are addressing."

That's exactly what Meneses' team is doing.

"Our research is trying to target the various types of HPV that infect women in order to have one vaccine that can cover the types that infect all women and all infected individuals."

Until then, Meneses says getting immunized is still important, as is getting checked routinely and practicing safe sex.
 

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