Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Southampton, UK
Clinical Experimental Sciences, Faculty of Medicine, University of Southampton, UK
Department of Dermatology, University Hospitals Southampton NHS Foundation Trust, Southampton, UK
Cancer Sciences, Faculty of Medicine, University of Southampton, UK
The Podiatry Centre, Dunfermline, UK
The Podiatry Centre, Portsmouth, UK
These authors contributed equally
Background: Human papilloma virus (HPV) infects keratinocytes of the skin and mucous membranes, and is associated with the induction of cutaneous warts and malignancy. Warts can induce significant morbidity and disability but most therapies, including cryotherapy, laser, and radiofrequency devices show low efficacy and induce discomfort through tissue destruction. Microwaves are readily capable of passing through highly keratinised skin to deliver energy and induce heating of the tissue in a highly controllable, uniform manner. Objectives: To determine the effects of microwave on cutaneous HPV infection. Materials & methods: We undertook a pilot study of microwave therapy to the skin in 32 consecutive individuals with 52 recalcitrant long-lived viral cutaneous warts. Additionally, we undertook a molecular characterisation of the effects of microwaves on the skin. Results: Tissue inflammation was minimal, but 75.9% of lesions cleared which compares favourably with previous studies showing a clearance rate of 23-33% for cryotherapy or salicylic acid. We show that microwaves specifically induce dendritic cell cross-presentation of HPV antigen to CD8+ T cells and suggest that IL-6 may be important for DC IRF1 and IRF4 modulation to enhance this process. Conclusion: Keratinocyte-skin dendritic cell cross-talk is integral to host defence against HPV infections, and this pilot study supports the concept of microwave induction of anti-HPV immunity which offers a promising approach for treatment of HPV-induced viral warts and potentially HPV-related cancers.