Cervical Cancer-Causing Virus Linked to Epilepsy in New Temple, Penn Joint Study

A new study could mean big things for the future of epilepsy treatment.

Researchers at Shriners Hospitals’ Pediatric Research Center at the Temple University School of Medicine and the University of Pennsylvania have obtained evidence of a relationship between the human papillomavirus 16 (HPV16)—the most common cause of cervical cancer—and a common form of childhood epilepsy. They’ve found that HPV16 may be present in the human brain. In the study, when the scientists added a viral protein to the brains of mice, the mice demonstrated the same developmental issues—known as focal cortical dysplasia type IIB, or FCDIIB for short—as those affected by epilepsy.

I know there are a lot of big technical words here but bear with me, because what they’ve found has potential to be very significant: If childhood epilepsy indicates that HPV16 is present in the brain, then future treatment of FCDIIB could be modified to include “targeted therapy against HPV16 infection, with the goal of halting seizures.” Current treatments for FCDIIB include surgery and medication.

“The million dollar result would be to show it is possible to induce a brain malformation with a [HPV16 E6] infection, and the animal develops epilepsy,” Temple Med professor of neurology Peter Crino said in a press release. “It would be even better if we showed that it is preventable.”

Learn more about the study here.