Human Papillomavirus (HPV) Strains 16 and 18
The Human Papillomavirus (HPV) strains 16 and 18 are the two most common HPV strains that lead to cases of genital cancer. HPV is the most commonly sexually transmitted disease, resulting in more than fourteen million cases per year in the United States alone. When left untreated, HPV leads to high risks of cervical, vaginal, vulvar, anal, and penile cancers. In 1983 and 1984 in Germany, physician Harald zur Hausen found that two HPV strains, HPV-16 and HPV-18, caused cervical cancer in women. In the early twenty first century, pharmaceutical companies Merck & Co. and GlaxoSmithKline created HPV vaccines protecting against HPV-16 and HPV-18, which have reduced the number of HPV infections by fifty-six percent in the US. Discovering HPV strains 16 and 18 allowed physicians to test for those cancer-causing cell populations using Pap smears, a diagnostic tool that collects cells from the woman's cervix to identify cancerous cases of HPV infection. By identifying the cancerous strains of HPV-16 and HPV-18 and utilizing preventative measures such as the Pap smear and HPV vaccines, the rates of cervical cancer and other HPV-related cancers have reduced.