Julie H, an avid runner, was determined to run a marathon
before her 40th birthday. But three months before the
big race, what began as a minor irritation on the ball
of her right foot soon developed into three painful plantar
warts that disrupted her training. She faced painful laser
or liquid nitrogen treatment that would dash her dream.
Fortunately, an alternative may soon be available for
folks like Julie.
Dermatologist Dr Thomas Horn and
colleagues at the University of Arkansas for Medical
Sciences have developed a technique that could eradicate
multiple warts by simply treating a single site. The
novel approach involves injecting warts with antigens
similar to those used to test for allergic reactions.
Interestingly, even though the antigens used were against
common pathogens that cause other human diseases, the
body seemed to mount a response to HPV.
"This should become . . . a routine
treatment in our box of tools for patients with warts,
whether that's a patient with a single wart or patients
with multiple warts. It is effective, safe and relatively
painless," said Dr Horn in a statement to the Canadian
In a study led by Dr Horn and published
in the May issue of the Archives of Dermatology,
half of the 233 participants were injected with antigens
for mumps, Candida or Trichophyton (athlete's
foot fungus). Of these, 60% emerged wart-free, regardless
of which antigen was used. Only one wart was injected
for each subject yet, for half of the patients, immunotherapy
eliminated all their other warts, even genital warts.
Immunotherapy has a success rate that's comparable with
the reported rate for salicylic acid treatment (75%).
The jury is still out on cryotherapy some reports
show a better than placebo response and others not.
"While useful in any patient with
warts, intralesional immunotherapy may be particularly
useful in patients with numerous lesions or lesions
covering large surface areas," say the authors. Multiple
treatments, every three weeks, may be needed to do the
Arch Dermatol May 2005;141:589-94