Sex Transm Infect doi:10.1136/sextrans-2014-051558
  • Behaviour
  • Short report

A study of human papillomavirus on vaginally inserted sex toys, before and after cleaning, among women who have sex with women and men

  1. J D Fortenberry4
  1. 1Department of Internal Medicine, Division of Infectious Diseases, Indiana University School of Medicine, Indianapolis, Indiana, USA
  2. 2Division of Management, Policy, and Community Health, University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston, Houston, Texas, USA
  3. 3Center for Sexual Health Promotion, Indiana University, Bloomington, Indiana, USA
  4. 4Department of Pediatrics, Division of Adolescent Medicine, Indiana University School of Medicine, Indianapolis, Indiana, USA
  1. Correspondence to Dr Teresa A Anderson, Division of Infectious Diseases, Indiana University School of Medicine, 545 Barnhill Drive, Emerson Hall, Room 421, Indianapolis, IN 46217, USA; tbatteig{at}
  • Received 7 February 2014
  • Revised 28 March 2014
  • Accepted 2 April 2014
  • Published Online First 16 April 2014


Objectives The objective of the study was to determine the potential of human papillomavirus (HPV) transmission via shared sex toys, and determine whether cleaning practices implemented by the study participants were effective.

Methods Vibrator 1 was composed of thermoplastic elastomer. Vibrator 2 was composed of silicone. Twelve women, recruited from a university, used each vibrator on separate occasions and provided self-collected vaginal and vibrator samples (obtained from the vibrator shaft and handle), collected immediately after use, immediately after cleaning with a commercially available cleaner, and 24 h after cleaning. Vaginal and vibrator samples were assessed for HPV DNA by the Roche Linear Array HPV Genotyping Test.

Results HPV was detected in the vaginal samples of 9/12 (75%) women. Vibrator 1 shaft swabs were HPV positive before cleaning in 89% (8/9), immediately after cleaning in 56% (5/9), and 24 h after cleaning in 40% (2/5) of those that were HPV positive immediately after cleaning. Vibrator 2 shaft swabs were HPV positive before cleaning in 67% (6/9), immediately after cleaning in 44% (4/9), and 24 h after cleaning in none.

Conclusions HPV was detected on at least one vibrator immediately after use in the women with vaginal HPV. This supports the potential for HPV transmission via shared sex toy use, and is additionally supported by continued detection of HPV up to 24 h after standard cleaning. The data add to understanding of the range of sexual behaviours associated with HPV transmission, and the need for evidence-based recommendations for sex toy cleaning.

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