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26-01-2012 | Article

Newly discovered cause of warts could lead to better treatments


Free abstract

MedWire News: Researchers have identified a previously unknown cause of plantar warts (more commonly known as verrucas), and say the discovery could lead to new treatments.

The study, by a team of Turkish scientists, found that people with verrucas have high levels of molecules called "free radicals" in affected areas of their skin. Free radicals are highly reactive molecules that interact with other molecules within cells and can cause a type of damage known as "oxidative stress."

"The addition of topical drugs with antioxidative effects may be valuable in the treatment of warts," say Dr Özer Arican (Trakya University, Edirne) and co-workers writing in the Journal of the European Academy of Dermatology and Venereology.

Oxidative stress has been implicated in the cause of many diseases, such as cancer and dementia, and is also a key driver of the ageing process.

In this study, Dr Arican's team assessed whether oxidative stress is involved in the development of plantar warts.

They recruited 36 people with plantar warts and measured levels of oxidative stress in samples of scraped skin. For each patient, two skin samples were taken: one from an area affected by warts and another from an unaffected area.

Dr Arican's team found that oxidative stress levels were much higher in affected areas of skin than in unaffected areas.

They also found that levels of a chemical called superoxide dismutase, which works to "neutralize" free radicals, were much lower in areas of skin affected by warts than in unaffected areas.

Taken together, these findings suggest that oxidative stress is involved in the development of warts, say the researchers.

This would explain why zinc is an effective treatment for warts, they explain, since zinc is known to have "antioxidant" properties.

Furthermore, it could lead to the development of new, more effective treatments. "We suggest that topical or systemic antioxidative drugs may also reverse the increased oxidative status in patients with warts, although more detailed studies are required to verify this opinion," Dr Arican and colleagues conclude.

MedWire ( is an independent clinical news service provided by Springer Healthcare Limited. © Springer Healthcare Ltd; 2012

By Joanna Lyford