News Release

Researchers uncover link between genital warts and the immune system

Exciting breakthrough sets new path for potential mRNA vaccinations against HPV and other sexually transmitted diseases

Reports and Proceedings

Say Communications

LUGANO, 01 October, 2021– New research presented today at the EADV 30th Congress reveals a link between genital warts and the human leukocyte antigen (HLA) system - the part of the immune system which helps regulate immune responses. The findings suggest that genetic variants in the HLA system influence the risk of genital warts.1

Condyloma acuminata, commonly known as genital warts, are a manifestation of human papillomavirus (HPV), presenting as soft fleshy growths that develop around the genitals or anus.2 HPV is the most widespread and common sexually transmitted disease worldwide, with more than 80% of sexually active women and men expected to acquire at least one HPV infection by the age of 45 years – though most of these are normally short-lived infections without any clinical impact.3

The HLA system is part of the genetic region which holds genes essential for normal functioning of immune response, helping to distinguish between ‘foreign items’ called antigens (which cause the body to make an immune response) and the body’s own cells.4 All humans have genetic diversity in their HLA which means that responses to certain diseases are varied.

When studying the association, researchers identified 12 protective gene variations (odds ratios (OR) 0.4-0.8) and seven risk alleles (OR 1.1-1.3) in their patient cohort. Individuals with risk alleles were less successful at recognising the HPV virus and therefore more likely to present with genital warts – conversely, participants with protective alleles had better immune responses and were more effective at recognising HPV, limiting the likelihood of presenting with condylomas.

“Condylomas is one of the most prevalent of all sexually transmitted diseases, but its association with the HLA system is poorly understood,” explains Dr Pernille Lindsø Andersen, PhD Fellow, Department of Clinical Immunology and Department of Dermatology at Zealand University Hospital in Denmark. “Our research identifies key immunologic features that prove there is a link between the immune system and condylomas.”

A cohort of 65,791 blood donors were examined, with 4,199 participants considered as condyloma acuminata cases and the remaining 61,592 participants used as a control group. Cases were defined as those registered with a minimum of one redeemed prescription of medication for condyloma acuminata or had a diagnosis of condyloma acuminata. Genetic information (HLA types) and its association with being a case or control was assessed in all participants.

Additional research is needed to determine whether protective alleles (HLA types) can recognise specific proteins made by HPV.


“The promising results presented in this study are an exciting breakthrough which could lead to potential avenues for future mRNA vaccinations against genital warts,” says Mariano Suppa, EADV Board Member and Associate Professor at the Université Libre de Bruxelles in Brussels, Belgium.



Notes to Editors

A reference to the EADV 30th Congress or EADV Congress 2021 must be included when communicating any information within this press release.


For further information or to arrange an expert interview, please contact:

Boryana Kermenova – EADV Press Officer

+44 (0) 208 971 6429


Catriona Martin – EADV Press Officer

+44 (0) 208 971 6412


About Genital Warts (Condylomas Acuminata)

Condyloma acuminata is a common sexually transmitted infection (STI), caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV), presenting as soft fleshy growths that develop around the genitals or anus.2 HPV is spread by skin-to-skin contact during sexual activity; there does not need to be vaginal or anal intercourse to spread the infection. It is estimated that 75–80% of sexually active men and women will be infected with HPV at some point in their lives – though most of these are normally short-lived infections without any clinical impact.3 There is no cure for genital warts however there are treatment options to remove visible warts and decrease the risk of spreading the virus.5

About EADV

Founded in 1987, EADV is a leading European Dermato-Venereology Society with the important aims of improving the quality of patient care, furthering knowledge and education of dermatologists and venereologists globally through innovation and advocating on behalf of the speciality and patients. EADV collaborates with other organisations to provide a strong and clear voice to influence the European health agenda. It is a non-profit organisation with nearly 7,000 members across 116 different countries in the world, providing a valuable service for every type of dermato-venereologist professional. To find out more visit

To find out more visit

About EADV 30th Congress 2021:


The EADV's 30th Congress Anniversary Edition is a special celebration of three decades of science and innovation in the Dermatology and Venereology field. The 4-day Scientific Programme packed full with new findings and scientific breakthroughs and provides a unique opportunity to hear the latest in Dermato-Venereology and connect with leading experts. To find out more visit




  1. Lindsø Andersen P et al., The Human Leukocyte Antigen System in Genital Warts. Abstract no. 2199, submitted to EADV 30th Congress, 29-02 October 2021.
  2. Human papillomavirus (HPV). 2021., Available from: [Accessed September 2021].
  3. World H. The frequency of HPV infection worldwide. 2021., Available from: [Accessed September 2021].
  4. Mackay I, Rosen F. 2021., Available from: [Accessed September 2021].
  5.  Skin Sight. Genital warts. Available from: Genital Wart (Condyloma Acuminatum) in Adults: Condition, Treatments, and Pictures - Overview | skin sight. [Accessed September 2021].

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