One of the weirdest issues to drive the religious right into frothing madness was the discovery of a vaccine against human papilloma virus, or HPV, which would effectively reduce rates of cervical cancer … and it was opposed because it blocked infection with a sexually transmitted disease, and thus would encourage licentiousness. Weird, I know. Their brains don’t work right.
Anyway, here’s a new twist: investigators have found other non-genital reservoirs of the virus: HPV strains that could cause severe forms of cancer have been found under people’s fingernails. Ooooh, yuck, you filthy humans, crawling with viruses and microorganisms and various creepy crawlies … it gives one a little sympathy for obsessive germophobes.
It has to be emphasized, though, that finding the virus in one place does not mean it is transmitted via that place — this may be a completely negligible finding. If transmission is documented, then this could be an important discovery for public health policy, since we could at least tell them we’re inoculating their kids against a virus they might get from their priest patting them on the head, rather than just in case their child grows up to be a nasty dirty slut who actually has sex. It’s too early to do that, though, and right now this is mainly an opportunity to justify more research into mechanisms of infection with HPV.