Both Meg and I fear getting warts. We don't have them now but we both had them when young.
Meg fears them more apparently since she usually wears flip flops in the locker room. I am wondering whether I should start doing the same so I checked around online for info on warts. I learned several things:
- The virus that causes a foot (plantar) wart is a completely distinct species from the one that causes a hand (palmar) wart! Shown above is the phylogenetic tree. The branch labeled HPV1 is the Plantar wart and HPV2 is the Palmar wart.
- For you to catch a wart virus (HPV) the virus has to enter through the stem cells of a skin lesion. This is easier than it sounds; a plucked hair reveals stem cells in the torn follicle.
- The HPV doesn't go berzerk -- its DNA hangs out in the healthy lowest layer of your skin, dividing with the healthy cells as an episome (an episome is similar to a plasmid - I had to look that up).
- As the skin cells migrate to outer layers, the virus gets activated. Those episomes of viral DNA switch over the skin cell chemical machinery, telling your skin cell to make as many HPV DNA copies as possible and make them protein coats (like cozy little pajamas).
- When the wart skin flakes off, the wart virus inside is protected enough that it remains virulant for several months. If you step on the skin flake and your skin has any lesion, crack, break, athletes foot fissure -- BAM! the HPV virus might get access to one of your stem cells under your skin.
- Since HPV is a virus, you might have some immunity after exposure, according to a health insurance company site. I don't take this as an authoritative site.
- Treatments for the wart include "Placebo" which in one study had a 27% success rate.
Myh conclusion: unless I learn otherwise, warts seem to be contagious. Meg is right. I should protect my feet in the locker room.
An okay link explaining the weird life cycle of the papilloma DNA is
Two good, long Wikipedia links are:
Papillomaviridae [for great info on the virus life cycle] and
Wart [for an explanation of what you see and what the doctor will do]