Human papillomavirus (HPV) is the most common sexually transmitted infection, with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimating that nearly every sexually active man or woman will contract the virus at some point in their lives. Despite our current knowledge of the disease, a woman with two uteruses — but who contracted the infection in only one — presented doctors with a true HPV medical mystery.

The woman’s condition, though rare, is not completely unheard of. The 35-year-old Massachusetts woman was born with uterine didelphys, which happens when the uterus doesn't form properly during development and instead forms two uteruses. However, despite both of her uteruses having been exposed to HPV, only one of them contracted an infection, Live Science reported.

This finding, which is highlighted in a case study now published in the online journal Obstetrics & Gynecology, is particularly important as HPV is known to cause health problems such as genital warts and cancer. Although there have been eight other cases of women with two uteruses developing cervical cancer from HPV infections, this is the first time doctors have ever seen only one of the uteruses developing the HPV infection while the other was left completely fine.

"The fact that HPV was present in one cervix while the other remained clear illustrates the complexity of HPV persistence and shedding," wrote the researchers.

The unique patient had an HPV infection and precancerous growths in her left cervix. These growths were removed and one year later the woman tested negative for HPV in both cervixes.

Although HPV can go away on its own, it can also cause cervical cancer as well as a number of other cancers, including those of the throat, tongue, vulva, vagina, penis, and anus, the CDC reported. According to Scientific American, only about one in 20,000 women is born with two uteruses. However, this new finding suggests that for women with two cervixes, "each cervix should undergo independent evaluation" for cervical abnormalities and HPV.

Getting vaccinated is a highly effective way to avoid HPV, although the vaccines cannot protect patients against every single strain of the virus. In addition, regular screening for women aged 21 to 65 can also help prevent cervical cancer.

Source: Gujral H, Bennett J, Wright K. Unilateral Human Papillomavirus Infection and Cervical Dysplasia in a Patient With Two Cervices. Obstetrics & Gynecology. 2016

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