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Immunotherapy may be a viable option for eliminating warts

Linda Searing The Washington Post

The question: Getting rid of warts usually means having them cut out, frozen with liquid nitrogen, treated with salicylic acid or vaporized with a laser. Because these skin growths are caused by the human papillomavirus, might something that stimulates an immune system response to the virus also work?

This study randomly assigned 201 people with one or more warts to have their largest wart injected with one of three skin-test antigens – preparations that provoke an immune response and are used to test whether someone has been exposed to mumps, yeast infection or fungal infection – or a placebo. After no more than five injections, three weeks apart, warts that had been injected were gone in 60 percent of those who had antigen injections and in 24 percent of the placebo group. In about 22 percent of the antigen group, all other warts also had disappeared; that occurred in 10 percent of those given placebo injections. The type of antigen used did not affect the results.

Who may be affected by these findings? People with common warts. Anyone can develop warts, which are infectious, but some people – especially children – are more susceptible than others.

Caveats: Saline, which was used as the placebo, may have triggered some immune response and improved the placebo results. The study was too short to test relapse rates. Two of the four authors hold a patent for a product based on the antigens used in the study and are partners in a company formed to market the product.

Bottom line: Anyone with warts may want to talk with a dermatologist about considering skin-test antigen injections as a treatment option.

Find this study: May issue of the Archives of Dermatology; abstract available online at www.archdermatol.com.

Learn more about warts at http://familydoctor.org and www.mayoclinic.org.

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