Infection by oncogenic human papillomavirus (HPV) is the primary cause of cervical cancer and other anogenital cancers. The majority of cervical cancer cases occur in low- and middle- income countries (LMIC). Concurrent infection with Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) further increases the risk of HPV infection and exacerbates disease onset and progression. Highly effective prophylactic vaccines do exist to combat HPV infection with the most common oncogenic types, but the accessibility to these in LMIC is severely limited due to cost, difficulties in accessing the target population, cultural issues, and maintenance of a cold chain. Alternative preventive measures against HPV infection that are more accessible and affordable are therefore also needed to control cervical cancer risk. There are several efforts in identifying such alternative prophylactics which target key molecules involved in early HPV infection events. This review summarizes the current knowledge of the initial steps in HPV infection, from host cell-surface engagement to cellular trafficking of the viral genome before arrival in the nucleus. The key molecules that can be potentially targeted are highlighted, and a discussion on their applicability as alternative preventive means against HPV infection, with a focus on LMIC, is presented.
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