Recurrent respiratory papillomatosis (RRP) is characterized by repeated formation of papillomas in the respiratory tract and is caused by human papillomavirus (HPV) types 6 and 11. Women with genital HPV infection are slow to develop weak humoral immunity, but respond robustly to the HPV vaccine. We wondered if people with RRP had a similar immune response.
A convenience cross-sectional sample of patients with RRP were recruited into one of four groups: 1) adults and adolescents with active RRP, 2) children with active RRP, 3) RRP patients who had undergone HPV vaccination prior to enrollment and, 4) people with RRP who were in remission. Anti-HPV6 and HPV11 serology was determined by cLIA on a single blood draw.
Of the 70 subjects enrolled, 36, 16, 8, and 10, were in groups 1, 2, 3, and 4, respectively. 47% of participants aged >11 years and 81% aged ≤11 years possessed no antibodies against HPV6 or HPV11 (ie. double seronegative). 61% of patients in remission were double seronegative. All participants who had received HPV vaccine previously were seropositive to at least one of these low risk HPV types (ie none of them were double seronegative). Among patients who had active RRP and never had HPV vaccination (n = 52) there was an association between duration of symptoms and seropositivity. Of those who were seropositive, the geometric mean duration of symptoms was 11 years compared to 4.7 years for those who were seronegative (p = 0.001).
People with RRP are capable of developing a humoral response to HPV6 and HPV11. That response appears to be robust when initiated by the HPV vaccine, but either nonexistent or slow to develop in response to infection. Most in remission do not have demonstrable antibody levels against HPV6 or HPV11.