Study author Dr Alan Nyitray from The University of Texas in Houston, said: ‘It reinforces the point that HPV vaccination should not be thought of only in the context of sexual behavior.’
Male virgins can still get HPV, the first study of its kind found. Men who have never had intercourse are still at risk of catching the sexually-transmitted human papillomavirus virus (HPV) if they have oral sex, according to the researchers.
HPV is the most common sexually-transmitted infection in the US and can cause cancer of the penis in men, while women are at risk of developing the condition in the vulva, vagina or cervix. The infection can also cause cancer of the anus or throat in both sexes.
Around 79 million people in the US are infected with HPV, which is most commonly spread by vaginal or anal sex. Up to four in five people in the UK develop the infection at some point in their lives.
In the US, vaccinations against the infection are recommended for all boy and girls aged 11 to 12. In the UK, only girls are vaccinated from 12 years old. Controversially, certain girls report being left wheelchair bound and paralyzed after having the jab, however, global health officials have repeatedly said they are safe.
Male virgins can still get HPV if they have oral sex, new research reveals (stock image)
WHY IS THE HPV VACCINE CONTROVERSIAL?
In recent years, numerous teenage girls have made headlines after claiming to have suffered devastating side effects after having HPV vaccines, with alleged complications including paralysis and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.
Yet, global health officials have always strongly denied the jabs have any nervous system effects. As with any vaccine, there is a very small chance of a severe allergic reaction with the HPV jab, according to the Vaccine Knowledge Project at the University of Oxford.
The World Health Organisation, the US Center for Disease Control and the European Medicines Regulator have ‘extensively reviewed the vaccine’s safety’. They conclude there is ‘no credible evidence of a link between the HPV vaccine and a range of chronic illnesses’.
The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation said in July giving boys the HPV jab is not cost effective and a girls-only program is sufficient to prevent infection. Some also worry giving the jab to both boys and girls will encourage risky sexual behavior.
How the research was carried out
The researchers analyzed 87 male virgins aged between 18 and 70 living in the US, Mexico or Brazil. The study’s participants were followed-up every six months between 2005 and 2009.
Their genital cells were collected and investigated for 36 types of HPV.
‘HPV should not be thought of only in the context of sexual behavior’
Results reveal male virgins can still become infected with HPV. Yet, such infections occur at around half the rate of those having penetrative sex.
The researchers believe the participants may have caught HPV through oral sex.
Dr Nyitray said: ‘Previous studies have found HPV among female virgins, but this is the first to find it among male virgins.
‘It reinforces the point that HPV vaccination should not be thought of only in the context of sexual behavior.’
Of those who had sex within one year of the study starting, 28.7 percent became infected with HPV, while 45.5 percent caught the virus within two years.
Lead author Dr Zhiyue Liu said: ‘These findings highlight the rapid acquisition of HPV after sexual debut among men and thus emphasize the importance of HPV vaccination before sexual debut.’
The findings were published in The Journal of Infectious Diseases.