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Eye (Lond). 2012 Feb;26(2):202-11. doi: 10.1038/eye.2011.312. Epub 2011 Dec 2.

Association of human papilloma virus with pterygia and ocular-surface squamous neoplasia.

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Inflammation and Infection Research Centre, School of Medical Sciences, University of New South Wales, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia.


There are more microorganisms that colonize the human body than resident cells; some are commensal whereas others are pathogenic. Pathogenic microorganisms are sensed by the innate or adaptive immune system, an immune response is initiated, and the infection is often cleared. Some microorganisms have developed strategies to evade immune defenses, ensuring their long-term survival with potentially devastating consequences for the host. Approximately 18% of all cancers can be attributed to infective agents; the most common being Helicobacter pylori, Human papilloma virus (HPV) and Hepatitis B and C virus in causing stomach, cervical and liver carcinoma, respectively. This review focuses on whether HPV infection is necessary for initiating pterygia, a common benign condition and ocular-surface squamous neoplasia (OSSN), a rare disease with metastatic potential. The search engine PubMed was used to identify articles from the literature related to HPV and pterygium or conjunctival neoplasia. From 34 investigations that studied HPV in pterygia and OSSN, a prevalence rate of 18.6% (136/731) and 33.8% (144/426), respectively, was recorded. The variation in HPV prevalence (0-100%) for both disease groups may have arisen from study-design faults and the techniques used to identify the virus. Overall, the data suggest that HPV is not necessary for initiating either condition but may be a co-factor in susceptible hosts. Currently, over 60 million people worldwide have been immunized with HPV vaccines, but any effect on pterygium and OSSN development may not be known for some time as these lesions can evolve over decades or occur in older individuals.

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