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Dolphin Viruses

March 17, 2010

Dolphins are the only animal besides humans known to get multiple papillomaviruses, but unlike humans they don’t develop cervical cancer.


Dolphin STDs. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Women infected with multiple strains of human papillomavirus have a much greater chance of developing cervical cancer than those with no HPV at all. Now, University of Florida researchers have discovered that dolphins also get multiple papillomaviruses. But according to marine mammal biologist Hendrik Nollens, they’ve never been known to get cervical cancer.

HENDRIK NOLLENS (University of Florida):
Dolphins are the only other species that we know of that also carry multiple type genital papillomaviruses, and yet cancer has never been reported in these animals.

Understanding why dolphins are spared from cervical cancer and humans are not could help lead to better treatments for the disease.

What is the synergy between the viruses, why is it that if you have combinations of otherwise benign viruses, suddenly you do have this higher risk of cancer?

I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.