Media Releases

Impact of HPV infection of the airway measured for the first time

July 7, 2010

TORONTO – For the first time, the scope and devastating impact of the human papilloma virus (HPV) infection of the airway in children has been measured, according to a new population study from the University of Toronto and The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids).

For some time, the impact of HPV infection on the cervical and anogenital tract (anus and genital tract) has been widely recognized; less well documented is the impact of the same affliction in the airway. The disease, which can be passed from infected mother to child during pregnancy or childbirth, can cause wart-like lesions of the nose, pharynx, trachea and bronchi. These lesions interfere with breathing and require frequent surgical removal. In children, the affliction is known as juvenile onset recurrent respiratory papillomatosis, or JoRRP.

For a relatively rare disease, JoRRP extracts a significant toll on patients, families and the health-care system, according to a study by Paolo Campisi, Associate Professor in the University of Toronto Temerty Temerty Faculty of Medicine’s Department of Otolaryngology – Head & Neck Surgery and Staff Otolaryngologist and Project Investigator at SickKids. The study, published in the June advance online edition of the peer-reviewed journal Laryngoscopy, was presented by Campisi at the 26th International Papilloma Virus & Clinical and Public Health Workshops conference in Montreal last week.

“While the overall incidence of JoRRP is low, the implication for the afflicted children is significant and knowing the scope of the problem is critical. There is an enormous physical, psychological and financial burden for these young patients and their families,” said Dr. Campisi, who is also Director of SickKids’ Centre for Paediatric Voice and Laryngeal Function.

Dr. Campisi and his team collected data from colleagues across Canada and found that between 1994 and 2007, the overall incidence rate of JoRRP in children aged 14 and younger was only 0.24 cases per 100,000, or 243 reported cases (the prevalence rate was 1.11 per 100,000). But that modest number of cases required a substantial 3,021 surgical procedures performed on affected children. The data revealed that the median age at time of diagnosis was 4.4 years, and children with JoRRP underwent a median of seven surgical procedures each.

Patients were nearly equally split between male and female. The database also showed regional variations within Canada. Over the course of the study period, the disease prevalence rose in Atlantic Canada and Quebec, decreased in Ontario and British Columbia and held steady in the Prairies.

“Genital HPV infection is the most common sexually transmitted disease among young, sexually active people. Widespread vaccination against HPV within the female population may affect the incidence of JoRRP and spare children from the harsh consequences of the disease,” Dr. Campisi said.

Despite being a rare condition, estimates have put the cost of treatment in the U.S. at $100 million annually. While the incidence and prevalence of JoRRP has been examined in some parts of the world, the majority of the reported epidemiological rates are derived from limited populations or from estimates and extrapolations. Dr. Campisi’s database is the first well-defined population study of JoRRP. Canada’s public health-care system and population size made it an ideal subject for a study of this kind, he said. The national database will also be used as the basis for future surveillance studies and to facilitate recruitment for interventional trials.

This study was funded, in part, by an unrestricted research grant from Merck Frosst Canada Ltd. and by SickKids Foundation.

About the University of Toronto

Established in 1827, the University of Toronto has one of the strongest research and teaching faculties in North America, presenting top students at all levels with an intellectual environment unmatched in depth and breadth on any other Canadian campus.  With more than 75,000 students across three campuses (St. George, Mississauga and Scarborough) and over 450,000 alumni active in every region of the world, U of T’s influence is felt in every area of human endeavour.

About The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids)

The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids) is recognized as one of the world’s foremost paediatric health-care institutions and is Canada’s leading centre dedicated to advancing children’s health through the integration of patient care, research and education. Founded in 1875 and affiliated with the University of Toronto, SickKids is one of Canada’s most research-intensive hospitals and has generated discoveries that have helped children globally.  Its mission is to provide the best in complex and specialized family-centred care; pioneer scientific and clinical advancements; share expertise; foster an academic environment that nurtures health-care professionals; and champion an accessible, comprehensive and sustainable child health system.  SickKids is proud of its vision of Healthier Children. A Better World.™ For more information, please visit


For more information:

Matet Nebres
The Hospital for Sick Children

Suzanne Gold
The Hospital for Sick Children
416-813-7654, ext. 2059

Paul Cantin
University of Toronto Temerty Temerty Faculty of Medicine