There is a considerable body of scientific opinion that considers a strong immune system has the ability to eradicate warts. These benign skin growths are caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV), a highly infectious double-stranded DNA virus. And just as a vaccine encourages an individual’s immune system to fight infectious agents such as the flu virus, so the same principle applies to intralesional wart immunotherapy. A molecule, typically Candida antigen is injected into the wart to encourage the patient’s body to fight back.
Antigen stands for antibody generating and the Candida antigen causes the immune system to generate antibodies that recognize and target the HPV virus. These white blood cells then move toward the site of infection ready for the kill, and HPV is no more.
One study demonstrated a complete clearance of warts in 47% of participants and a 75 to 99% clearance rate in 13% of test subjects. Intriguingly, in 34% of people enrolled in the study there was complete wart removal from parts of the body that were distant from the injection site. In 22% of study members, clearance rates of 75 to 99% were observed at distant sites. (Clifton MM, et al. Immunotherapy for recalcitrant warts in children using intralesional mumps or Candida antigens. Pediatr Dermatol 2003; 20: 268-71). It should be noted that mumps antigen is no longer used.
Another study compared the efficacy of Candida antigens, mumps and cryotherapy. The Candida antigen came out on top with a wart clearance rate of 70% compared to the 42% clearance rate observed for cryotherapy (Johnson SM, Roberson PK, Horn TD. Intralesional injection of mumps or Candida skin test antigens: a novel immunotherapy for warts. Arch Dermatol 2001; 137: 451-5).
Some side effects have been observed in patients who have been injected with Candida antigen and these have included an influenza-like illness that has lasted for under 24 hours, and itching at the injection site.
There are more than 100 different types of human papillomavirus that infect humans, and some vaccines, particularly Gardasil are effective against genital warts by preventing infection in the first place. Other vaccines may well be developed that could target warts that affect other parts of the body.