Utility of the Human Papillomavirus Vaccination in Management of HPV-associated Cutaneous Lesions

Jane Gay, BA; Nathan Johnson, MD; Varun Kavuru, BA; Mariana Phillips, MD


Skin Therapy Letter. 2021;26(2):6-8. 

In This Article

Cutaneous Warts

Common, plantar, and flat warts are notoriously difficult to treat, many recurring or failing to regress with multiple treatment modalities.[13] For this reason, additional treatments for recalcitrant warts would benefit patients and physicians. Nofal et al. published a study documenting their use of the bivalent HPV vaccine (Cervarix) in 44 patients with common warts who were randomly assigned to receive either standard Cervarix immunization (0, 1, and 6 months) or intralesional injection of Cervarix into the largest wart every 2 weeks until complete clearance or for a maximum of 6 sessions.[13] Each participant had multiple, recalcitrant common warts that had been present for more than 2 years duration and failed to respond to at least 2 treatment modalities. Complete clearance was observed in 18 patients (81.8%) of the intralesional group and 14 patients (63.3%) of the intramuscular group; however, this was not statically significant. No recurrence was noted in the 6-month follow-up period. Additionally, a retrospective analysis of 30 patients documented complete clearance of common and plantar warts for 14 patients (46.67%) following administration of 3 doses of quadrivalent Gardasil.[14] An additional 5 patients (16.67%) showed a partial response while 11 patients (36.67%) showed no response at all. Although the HPV strains most associated with common warts are not specifically targeted in the HPV vaccinations, the therapeutic effect is possibly due to antigenic similarity of the L1 capsid proteins across types or by nonspecific immune stimulation by the adjuvant contained within the formulation. The latter may partially explain the higher clearance rate observed with administration of Cervarix compared to Gardasil since a more potent adjuvant (AS04) is utilized in the Cervarix formulation.[5,13] Alternatively, the vaccine may alter the cytokine environment enhancing the native immune response.[4,13]

Additional literature examining the role of HPV immunization in treating conventional warts is limited to case reports and small case series.[15–21] Abeck & Holst studied the effect of quadrivalent HPV immunization on 6 children with a 2-year history of recalcitrant extragenital warts.[15] After the second dose, all but 1 child had complete resolution of warts, the sixth child was noted to respond after the third dose. A similarly designed study documented complete clearance of chronic verruca vulgaris in 4 patients following quadrivalent HPV administration intramuscularly.[16] Moscato et al. described a single case of complete remission of plantar warts after 2 of 3 doses of the HPV quadrivalent vaccine. Interestingly, this patient also had genital condylomata, which did not regress following HPV vaccination.[17] Kreuter et al. described an immunocompromised patient with disseminated cutaneous extragenital warts that significantly regressed starting 4 weeks after single dose of HPV quadrivalent vaccine with further regression noted 1 year after the third dose. This patient also had concurrent genital warts, which did not regress with treatment.[18] Finally, a more recent case report described remarkable improvement of disseminated verruca vulgaris in an immunosuppressed patient after administration of the nonavalent formulation of Gardasil.[19]