The Human Papillomavirus (HPV) is a sexually transmitted virus that causes cervical cancer. Since 2008 a vaccination program targeting 12-year-old girls has been initiated in Italy, backing up the cervical screening program already active since 1996. We propose a mathematical model of HPV transmission dynamics with the aim of evaluating the impact of these prevention strategies. The model considers heterosexual transmission of HPV types 16 and 18, structured by sex, age and sexual activity level, where transition to sexual activity is explicitly modeled from recent survey data. The epidemiological structure is a hybrid SIS/SIR, where a fraction of individuals recovering from infection develops permanent immunity against reinfection. Infections may progress to cervical lesions and cancer and heal spontaneously or upon treatment. Women undergoing hysterectomy (either after treatment of HPV lesions or by other causes) also transmit HPV infection. The model fits well both the age-specific prevalence of HPV infections and the incidence of cervical cancers in Italy, and accurately reproduces the decreasing trend in cancer incidence due to the introduction of the screening program. The model predicts that if the screening coverage is maintained at current levels, even in the absence of vaccination, such trend will continue in the next few decades, eventually plateauing at 25% below the current level. The additional initiation of routine vaccination targeting 12-year-old girls will further reduce cervical cancer incidence by two thirds at equilibrium, under realistic assumptions of 70% coverage and a duration of protective immunity of 50 years. If catch-up immunization of 25-year-old women at first cervical screening is also introduced, about 3,000 cervical cancer cases overall c an be averted, corresponding to 9.6% of all cases expected in the scenario without catch-up. We conclude that HPV vaccination in addition to cervical screening will significantly reduce the burden of cervical cancer in Italy. © 2014 Guzzetta et al.
Guzzetta, G., Faustini, L., Panatto, D., Gasparini, R., & Manfredi, P. (2014). The impact of HPV female immunization in Italy: Model based predictions. PLoS ONE, 9(3). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0091698