This lesson will describe what virus causes warts, how it is transmitted, what its structure is like, as well as the main type of cancer it can cause. Find out as we take a look at warts, papillomas, and many other beautiful things!
The Papillomaviridae Virus Family
When I think of nasty growths on a person, I think of a really ugly wicked witch with all sorts of boils and other ugly things on her nose and the rest of her face and body. Because she's upset that she's so ugly, she flies around on her broom casting terrible spells and poxes upon people in order to make them feel as bad as she does.
The problem with this witch is that she has a lot of spells that she cooks up in her cauldron at home. After cooking up these nasty spells, she takes them and curses lots of people with all sorts of nasty viruses and diseases associated with the Papillomaviridae virus family, the viruses responsible for all those ugly warts.
Papillomaviridae Structure and Transmission
The curses, or viruses of this family, are small, icosahedral in shape and non-enveloped. Their genome is double-stranded DNA and circular in shape. But, just because these viruses are small, that doesn't mean they don't cause big problems.
The way the witch typically transmits these viruses to unsuspecting victims is through direct contact. She essentially needs to get off her broom, come up to you and touch her infected skin or mucous membranes to yours. By the way, the mucous membranes include areas like the inside of the mouth, the lips and certain places in the genital areas. In fact, sexual intercourse is a very common way of transmitting the most important virus of this family, and it is therefore the most common sexually transmitted infection in the United States.
The most important curse the witch managed to brew up in her cauldron is something she called the human papillomavirus. This is a virus that may cause the formation of papillomas and deadly malignant tumors. As the witch comes up to touch and therefore curse, or infect you with this virus, you'll notice that she has a benign tumor of stratified epithelial tissue found on her skin or mucous membranes called a papilloma. A common or colloquial term for a papilloma is something you've certainly heard of: a wart.
The epithelium, or epithelial layer, that these warts are found on is the layer of tissue that lines the outer surface of your body, your skin and mucous membranes, as well as hollow organs, like the stomach or uterus and your body's glands. However, the virus itself infects the basal, or bottom most portion of the epithelium, when the epithelium is traumatized by something like a cut or micro-abrasion.
When the wicked witch touches any area of her skin or mucous membranes that have a papilloma to any area of your damaged skin, you may get infected. But, our witch is really evil, to the point that she can get you infected even without a visible wart. That is because infection with HPV, the human papilloma virus, may occur by having contact with people showing no signs of the disease. The witch can touch you with clean looking hands, and you may still get infected.
HPV Associated Diseases
One troubling fact about HPV is that is has been associated with some deadly diseases, notably cervical cancer. This is a malignant tumor of the cervix that is almost always caused in part by the human papillomavirus. Worldwide, cervical cancer is the second most common cancer in women, right after breast cancer.
Don't get confused by the word tumor with respect to a benign tumor or a malignant tumor, or cancer, in the case of the latter. The word tumor implies some kind of swelling or growth. The swelling or growth can be relatively harmless, like the papillomas we discussed. This means they are benign or benign tumors. However, when a growth or swelling is malignant, meaning the growth can cause a lot of damage to the surrounding tissue or spread around the body, it is then termed a malignant tumor. This is the same thing as saying that something is cancerous.
The strain, or variation, of HPV that causes cervical cancer is different from that of the strains that cause skin or genital warts. And, just like the fact that our witch can infect us by showing no signs of any disease, so too it is the case for cervical cancer. The strains that cause cancer may show no signs at all, until it is too late.
Last, but certainly not least, HPV has been implicated in a wide variety of additional issues, like massive amounts of warts growing in your respiratory tract, suffocating you to death, or cancers affecting the throat and genital organs of both sexes. That is why getting tested by your doctor earlier than later is so utterly important. In addition, though not all these infections are preventable, vaccines are available that can protect you from some of the most common strains of the virus.
Even though we can't vaccinate against all of the different strains of HPV, we can definitely review all of the important terms in this lesson. The most important virus we discussed is the human papillomavirus of the Papillomaviridae virus family. This is a virus that may cause the formation of papillomas and deadly malignant tumors.
A papilloma is a benign tumor of epithelial tissue found on skin or mucous membranes. A common or colloquial term for a papilloma is something you've certainly heard of: a wart. One troubling fact about HPV is that it has been associated with some deadly diseases, notably cervical cancer. This is a malignant tumor of the cervix that is almost always caused in part by the human papillomavirus.
After reviewing this lesson, you'll have the ability to:
- Describe the structure of the Papillomaviridae virus family and its transmission
- Define papilloma
- Explain HPV's relationship to cervical cancer
- Differentiate between benign and malignant tumors related to HPV