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Home HPV Research HPV Research HPV Concordance in Heterosexual Couples

HPV Concordance in Heterosexual Couples

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A small study finds couples frequently share the same types of HPV. There are over 100 types of HPV, approximately 30 of which are associated primarily with the anogenital area and sexual transmission. A couple is “concordant” for HPV when both partners share the same type of virus.

To examine factors that might influence concordance, Lea Widdice, MD, and colleagues obtained information about recent sexual behaviors and hygiene from 25 couples that reported being in a monogamous relationship for at least three months (the women recruited were ages 13-21 and part of an HPV natural history study). Anogenital, palm and finger (of the dominant hand), and oral samples were taken from each participant and tested for HPV. The women were all part of an HPV natural history study which involved Pap tests and HPV screening every four months.


14 of the 25 couples had anogenital HPV concordance; three couples were “negatively” concordant in that neither partner had any anogenital HPV detected. Men were more likely to have HPV if their female partners had persistent infections.

With the palms and fingers, the numbers were nearly reversed: Four couples had the same HPV type detected on the hands, while 13 had no HPV found. Oral cavity HPV was uncommon, and only one couple shared the same type.

Couples were less likely to share HPV if the men washed their genitals after sex and if the women reported sharing towels and razors with their partner, and engaging in receptive finger-anal sex. The authors say it isn’t clear why these behaviors were associated with a reduction on concordance, but theorize that sharing items like razors and towels may lead to the transfer of HPV-infected cells from a site on a partner (such as thighs) that wasn’t sampled to a skin area on the partner from which samples were collected. When this happens, the authors say, the detection of HPV might represent “contamination” with a partner’s infected cells rather than an actual, established infection. This might also explain why finger-anal sex was linked with discordance.

Lea Widdice, David Breland, Janet Jonte, Sepideh Farhat, Yifei Ma, Anthony Leonard, Anna-Barbara Moscicki. (in press). Human Papillomavirus Concordance in Heterosexual Couples. Journal of Adolescent Health, 2010. 1-9.