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New and Effective Treatments for Warts (Warts)
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New and Effective Treatments for Warts

Kevin C. Smith MD FACP FRCPC

Warts are the result of a viral infection on the skin. The viruses that cause warts vary widely, and are the cause of different warts. Most warts are simply a cosmetic nuisance, but depending on the location, can interfere with daily activities. Hand warts can be especially problematic for those who use their hands extensively, such as medical practitioners, or servers. Butchers tend to develop warts on their hands, and they are considered to be a type of occupational hazard. 

Warts will sometimes disappear without treatment as a result of heightening of the immune system, which recognizes and attacks the warts. In most cases, however, warts will not disappear if left untreated. Until recent years, wart treatment involved burning off the warts using caustic chemicals or high frequency electric currents. These treatments were painful, and often unreliable.

US researchers have shown that injections of antigen derived from yeast can stimulate the immune system, inducing it to attack the warts which were injected, and often inducing it to attack other warts at the same time. This is considered a promising treatment as the injections use fine needles, which do not destroy any tissue, and do not cause pain or discomfort. Several treatments may be required for full effect.

Imiquimod (Aldara®) is a cream used for genital warts, and can sometimes be effective for treating other kinds of warts. The cream boosts theskin’s immune system, helping it combat the virus.

In the last year an effective vaccine was developed which protects against a wart virus that is associated with carcinoma of the cervix area. Following further research, we hope that this will be available to the public. With ongoing research we hope to have protective and therapeutic vaccines available for common warts on the hands and feet.