Over a tenth of English girls are infected with the sexually-transmitted human papillomavirus (HPV) by the time they reach their 16th birthday, researchers have revealed.
Experts from the Health Protection Agency (HPA) tested 1,483 women between the ages of ten and 29 and also found that, by the age of 18, around one in five women show signs of infection.
The figure rises to around 40 per cent by the age of 24.
Certain strains of the virus have been found to cause cervical cancer, prompting the imminent introduction of a vaccination programme for 12-year-old girls to reduce the number of women needing cancer treatment.
HPA chief executive Professor Pat Troop told the BBC: "This study is a valuable addition to our understanding of HPV infection in women in England and should contribute to effective policies to prevent genital warts and cervical cancer."
The study was presented at the HPA's annual conference in Warwick today (September 19th).
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