So, don't freak out or anything, but odds are good that you have human papillomavirus. After all, 69% of healthy American adults do, according to a new study released by the NYU Langone Medical Center. That's the bad news. The good news is that it's probably harmless; only four of the 103 infected people researchers looked at had one of the two HPV strains most likely to cause cancer or genital warts.
The two-year study was based on publicly available information from the National Institutes of Health's Human Microbiome Project. Whereas past studies looked only for the harmful strains of HPV, this one widened its net. "We don't want people to be alarmed," one researcher tells LiveScience. In fact, the team suspects that some of these HPV strains might actually be helpful by stimulating the immune system to fight off more harmful versions—and that the body may have "a seemingly 'normal' HPV viral biome" similar to its helpful bacteria ecosystem.