The Hunt for Anal Vectors


A largescale study conducted in two parts of the world has revealed that roughly one in four heterosexual men have anal human papillomavirus (HPV) infection. The condition is traditionally associated with women, who undergo the familiar “pap smear” to detect its presence, while the incidence in men was assumed to be much lower. Until recently, there was no effective test for HPV in men, but now there is and, guess what? According to a report in the June 15th issue of The Journal of Infectious Diseases, samples of men in the Netherlands and Brazil found rates of anal HPV infection (in both the anal canal and the perianal region) to rival women’s vaginal rates. Since men are, in today’s curious lingo, the “vector” of this infection for women, this finding does raise an intriguing question, which research leader Alan Nyitray posed with classic scientific undertatement: “There are a number of questions this study raises. For instance, how was HPV transmitted to the perianal region and anal canal of these men.” How indeed? Are we to conclude that vast numbers of Dutch and Brazilian men are going down on other men on a regular basis? Perhaps not, but it’s a puzzlement, that’s for sure. The hunt for a vector is on.

Source: Reuters Health Information 2008