Over and over I see people concerned about the long term implications of only vaccinating against High-Risk HPV types:
If we vaccinate against types 16 and 18, wont other HPV viruses evolve to fill that empty niche? Wont other HPV step up to cause cancer?
This is a valid concern. With viruses, you need to get rid of it all, or you get rid of nothing. Say we figure out a perfect vaccine for HIV-1 Subtype C. We get rid of all HIV-1 Subtype C on this planet. Other subypes of HIV-1 will step up to fill that void… and youre back to where you started. Ugh.
But the answer to the question about HPV and cancer, specifically, is: NOOOO.
And by that, I mean: NOOOOOOOO.
One thing that I dont even think other biologists appreciate is that especially with viruses, sometimes, ‘shit just happens’. Sometimes viruses do shit that has no adaptive value. Just do to their randomness and HUGE numbers, shit just happens.
There is no evolutionary benefit to HPV causing cervical cancer. None. Technically, its a negative, as transformed cells produce no virus.
Its an accident.
Its a mistake.
There is no adaptive advantage to an HPV that causes cancer.
It could be that ‘any’ HPV can cause cancer, by accident, its just that HPV 16 and 18 are the most prevalent HPVs, so they get the most ‘chances’ to make a mistake.
But thats not the case. 16 and 18 cause a teeny-tiny minority of all HPV infections.
Getting rid of them is not going to create an ecological vacuum that will necessarily be filled. While ‘shit might happen’ again, there is no evolutionary ‘reason’ to fill the ‘HPV cancer’ void.
Get your vax against HPV 16 and 18. Obliterate those assholes from the planet.