HPV Vaccine Helps Prevent Rare Childhood Respiratory Disease?

NOVEMBER 13, 2017
Jennifer Barrett, Assistant Editor
The human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine can protect against more than cancer-causing types of HPV, according to a recently-published study in The Journal of Infectious Diseases.

Researchers noted evidence that the HPV vaccine also prevents an uncommon but incurable childhood respiratory disease, recurrent respiratory papillomatosis. According to the researchers, the condition is thought to occur in children when HPV is spread from mother to child around the time of birth. The virus can cause wart-like, non-cancerous growths called papillomas to develop in the respiratory tract, making it difficult to breathe.

In the study, the researchers found that the disease is disappearing in Australian children as a result of the nation’s HPV vaccination program. Based on the results from a nationwide surveillance program created to monitor the disease, the number of new cases of the condition have annually declined since 2012, when 7 cases of juvenile-onset recurrent respiratory papillomatosis were reported. Only 1 case was reported in the country in 2016.

None of the mothers of the children who were diagnosed from 2012-2016 had been vaccinated against HPV prior to their pregnancy.

In Australia, a publicly-funded HPV immunization program provides the quadrivalent HPV vaccine through school-based programs, yielding 86% coverage among girls and 79% among boys aged 14-15 years of age, compared to only 60% of teens aged 13-17 years old in the United States. Although US rates of HPV vaccination have improved, there is still more work to be done to boost coverage.

In a related editorial commentary, the authors urged high-income countries with excellent HPV immunization rates to fully evaluate similar population-level impacts of their vaccination programs. 


Novakovic D, Cheng ATL, Zurynski Y, et al. A prospective study of the incidence of juvenile-onset recurrent respiratory papillomatosis after implementation of a national HPV vaccination program.  J  Infect Dis. 2017. https://doi.org/10.1093/infdis/jix498.

Donovan B, Callander D. Juvenile-Onset recurrent respiratory papillomatosis: The benefits of quadrivalent human papillomavirus vaccination continue to accrue. J Infect Dis. 2018. https://doi.org/10.1093/infdis/jix499