Anogenital Warts May Act as Portals for HIV Transmission

The current study sought to provide evidence that anogenital warts facilitate the transmission of HIV.

Significantly higher HIV-target cell concentrations are found in anogenital warts than in normal, site-matched skin, suggesting that anogenital warts may promote the sexual transmission of HIV, according to a study published in The Journal of Infectious Diseases.

Anogenital warts (condylomata acuminata) are widespread in patients with HIV and in populations at risk for acquiring HIV and have been associated with the transmission of HIV. By comparing anogenital warts with control skin tissue for the types, location, and abundance of HIV-target cells and for in vitro susceptibility to HIV infection, the current study sought to provide evidence that anogenital warts facilitate the transmission of HIV.

Immunohistology was used to identify HIV-target cells in anogenital warts and in normal, control, site-matched skin. Anogenital wart and HIV-negative control tissue were also inoculated in vitro and infection assessed by TZM-bl and p24 assays.

Significantly higher concentrations of CD4+ T cells, CD1a+ dendritic cells, and macrophages were found in anogenital wart tissue than in control skin tissue, and 2 out of 8 anogenital wart tissue tests showed robust HIV infection in vitro compared to 0 of 8 control tissue tests.

According to study investigators, these findings suggest that anogenital warts may function as portals for the transmission of HIV, and therefore efforts to prevent and treat anogenital warts and vaccinate children and adolescents before they reach sexual maturity may be an important step in controlling the HIV epidemic.

Furthermore, “large scale roll out of HPV vaccines in HIV-endemic areas such as sub-Saharan Africa could significantly impact the HIV epidemic in these regions.”

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This study was supported by Merck ISSP grant 37966 (D. Anderson).


Pudney J, Wangu Z, Panther L, et al. Condylomata acuminata (anogenital warts) contain accumulations of HIV-1 target cells that may provide portals for HIV transmission [published online August 18, 2018]. J Infect Dis. doi: 10.1093/infdis/jiy505