Detection of human papillomaviruses in the nasopharynx of breastfed infants: New findings and meta-analysis

Luisa Dassi, Clorinda Annunziata, Chiara Botti, Alberto Micillo, Andrea Cerasuolo, Noemy Starita, Franco M. Buonaguro, Maria Lina Tornesello

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Vertical transmission of human papillomaviruses (HPVs) from mother to infant is known to occur during labor, delivery or breastfeeding. Infection with mucosal HPV 6 and 11 may cause recurrent respiratory papillomatosis in children, which is a rare and severe respiratory disease. The cutaneous HPV genotypes have also been described to be transmitted from mother to newborn through skin-to-skin contacts and during breastfeeding. To investigate the perinatal transmission of alpha and beta HPVs we collected nasopharyngeal specimens from 0-12-months-old infants born by vaginal delivery and breastfed at the time of sample collection. The mucosal and cutaneous HPVs were searched by nested PCR using the MY09/11-MGPs and CP65/70-CP66/69 primer sets, respectively, and genotypes identified by direct sequencing analysis. Fourteen out of 113 (12.4%) samples tested positive for HPV and sequence analysis allowed us to identify eight beta genotypes (HPV 5b, 20, 25, 100, 107, 124, 152 and RTRX7). Moreover, we performed a comprehensive review of published studies on the prevalence of mucosal and cutaneous HPVs among 5126 newborns and observed that 10% and 53% were positive for alpha and beta HPVs, respectively. In all studies there was an inverse correlation between the rate of alpha HPV positivity and age, while a significant positive trend was observed in beta HPV detection and age with the highest rate among children older than 12 months (Χ2 test for trend of 10.6, p < 0.001). Further studies are needed to confirm the hypothesis that beta HPVs are transmitted to breastfeeding infants through shedding of viruses in the breast milk or on the external breast epithelium.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1119
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2020


  • Alpha HPVs
  • Beta HPVs
  • Breastfeeding
  • Human papillomavirus (HPV)
  • Infants

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Infectious Diseases
  • Virology


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