More reasons to love the king of the sea

By Susan Aielo • Published: March 4th, 2011
Category: Animal Airwaves

Everyone loves the king of the sea, but can Flipper help cure cancer? Aquatic health scientists have discovered that dolphins may be the best animal model for studying cervical cancer in women.

Each year, approximately 12,000 American women are diagnosed with this dreaded disease, and nearly 4,000 die from it. Virtually all cases are caused by human papillomavirus, or HPV, which is typically spread during sexual activity.

Like women, dolphins can harbor multiple papillomavirus infections, and some of these viruses are genetically similar to HPV. Scientists from the University of Florida Marine Animal Disease Laboratory are cataloging these and other emerging viruses of marine mammals. Their research might eventually answer the question why women get cervical cancer from papillomavirus, but dolphins don’t.