HPV Vaccine May Reduce Premature Births

The new vaccine against the sexually transmitted human papilloma virus (HPV) may have the happy side effect of reducing the number of preterm births by an estimated 60 percent among those women surgically treated to rectify HPV tissue damage to their cervixes, a recent study calculChronic HPV infection can produce serious cellular changes in the cervix that are often a pre-stage to cervical cancer. The remedy is surgical removal of part of the cervix (conisation). But this procedure increases a woman's risk of premature birth.

 

The current study, published in Acta Obstretica et Gynecologica, was performed by two Norwegians, Katrine D. Sjoborg, a consultant at Ostfold Hospital, and Anne Eskild, of the Norwegian Institute of Public Health and Akershus University Hospital. It calculated the approximate number of preterm births that could be prevented by a rigorous program of HPV vaccination.

The researchers, who used data from Europe and North America, determined that if 2 percent of pregnant women underwent conisation, it would result in 60 to 220 preterm births per 100,000 births. If, however, 90 percent of women were vaccinated against HPV, almost 60 percent of the conisation-caused premature births could conceivably be prevented. This would translate to avoiding 35 to 128 preterm births per 100,000 births. And if 4 percent of pregnant women underwent conisation, 70 to 257 premature births per 100,000 births could be prevented.

As many as 10 percent of all births in Scandinavia are premature, though only a small proportion of these are associated with conisation. Children born prematurely face the possibility of a variety of dangerous health conditions and even death. Thus, preventing preterm birth is vital to shielding newborns and their families from great suffering, as well as relieving the burden on a strained health-care system. Since there is a solid link between conisation and premature birth, HPV vaccination, which helps prevent the two, can be a significant benefit to society, the researchers conclude.


 


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