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Warts (HPV)

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Warts (Common and Plantar)

General Purpose 

Although warts can occur anywhere on the body, this information will address only those warts that occur on the hands and feet. A separate section on genital warts is provided here.

At some point in their life, most people will experience the unpleasant occurrence of warts on their hands, fingers, and/or feet. Warts that occur on the hands and fingers are generally rough, flesh-colored, white, pink, or tan in appearance, and often have small black dots (clotted blood vessels) noticeable within their core.

These warts are known as common warts, and are transmitted by touch. Children, young adults, and individuals with compromised immune systems are more likely to develop common warts.

Although these warts tend to disappear on their own, many people resort to over-the-counter medications or minor dermatologic procedures to remove them, due to their often unsightly appearance and resulting embarrassment.

Warts that occur on the soles of the feet are known as plantar warts. They tend to develop on the pressure points of the feet, and can sometimes grow inward beneath a hard, thickened patch of skin. Like common warts, plantar warts usually do not require treatment, but many people prefer to remove them, as they can be bothersome or painful.

In such cases, a dermatologist should be consulted. Treatments may include freezing, mild acid, immunotherapy, minor surgical procedures, and laser therapy. Unfortunately, plantar warts can be resistant to treatment and often require multiple treatments before they disappear.

Both plantar and common warts are caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV), of which there are over 100 different types. Moreover, different strains of the virus cause different types of warts. The HPV strains that cause common warts are contagious, whereas those that cause plantar warts are much less so.

Transmission of common warts occurs via touch, whereas the viruses that cause plantar warts thrive in warm, moist places such as showers, locker rooms, and public swimming facilities. In order to become infected, the virus requires a point of entry into the skin, therefore, cracks in dry skin, cuts, scrapes, and softened skin due to water exposure all provided opportunities for infection with HPV.

What Will Wart-Related Clinical Trials Be Like?

The types of procedures used in wart-related clinical trials will ultimately depend on the specific nature of the study and what types of warts are being studied. Provided below is a list of common procedures, tests, and assessments that may be incorporated into such clinical trials:

  • Detailed physical examination
  • Wart removal / wart biopsy
  • You may be required to take an oral medication, use a topical gel or lotion applied to your warts, or undergo a surgical or skin therapy procedure.
  • Blood tests
  • Photographs of your warts

Typical Wart-Related Clinical Trial Protocol:

Specific examples of clinical trials for warts might include the following:

  • A randomized trial comparing the effectiveness of an adhesive patch consisting of moleskin plus duct tape with an adhesive patch consisting of moleskin alone for treating plantar warts. The purpose of such a trial would be to determine if duct tape, which is anecdotally reported to be effective at treating both plantar and common warts, is effective in a controlled setting for the treatment of plantar warts.
  • A study to determine which of four different strengths of a newly developed anti-fungal gel is effective at treating common warts when administered three times per week for twelve weeks.
  • A randomized clinical trial in which patients with common and/or plantar warts receive either a newly developed oral antifungal medication or a placebo. The purpose of this trial would be to determine if the new medication is safe and effective as a treatment for common and plantar warts.

A brief word about randomized trials and placebos:

Many clinical trials involve the comparison of an investigational treatment to a “standard” treatment. Some studies determine which therapy a patient receives through a process known as randomization, in which patients are randomly assigned to receive either the investigational treatment or the standard treatment.

On occasion, a trial will investigate the use of a standard treatment plus a new drug compared to standard treatment plus a placebo. Placebos are inactive or “sham” treatments that are identical in appearance to the active treatment but have no therapeutic value.

Placebos are necessary to help determine if adverse effects that occur during the clinical trial are the result of the investigational treatment or due to some other factor. They also allow researchers to measure the effects of the active treatment and observe what would have happened without it.

In rare instances where no standard therapy exists, or when a new drug or therapy is being investigated (such as the third clinical trial example described above), the investigational treatment might be compared to a placebo alone. In these types of trials, those patients who are randomized to the placebo group do not receive an active treatment.

It is important to know that placebo-only trials are only conducted when scientifically necessary and when patients have been adequately informed that they may end up receiving the placebo rather than the active treatment.

It is very important to note, however, that no one should ever participate in such a placebo trial when there is a widely available and highly effective standard treatment already in existence for their particular disease or condition.

Trial Eligibility and Medical Information Needed:

The type of clinical trial you may be eligible for often depends on many factors. Therefore, it is important to know as many details as possible with regard to your specific circumstances when searching for clinical trials.  Examples of information you may want to have on hand include the following:

  • Your history of warts
  • Your prior and current diagnoses of any other health conditions or diseases
  • Your current medications (including vitamins, minerals, and other dietary supplements)

Suggested Search Terms:

Once you are ready to begin your search for wart-related clinical trials, the following terms may be of use when combined with either “common warts” or “plantar warts”: “treatment,” “prevention,” “children,” and “adolescents.”


Current Search Term:

“Warts (HPV)”

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