Butcher’s warts occur as a result of an infection with the human papillomavirus. This type of warts is caused by HPV 7 and usually affects people who work with meet. The research team of Keefe and colleagues undertook a study of butcher’s warts in the United Kingdom to examine the reasons for the high rate of infection with HPV 7 among meat workers. The team studied 308 engineers, 246 butchers, 240 abattoir workers, and 292 office workers. A dermatologist diagnosed hand warts in 34 percent of butchers, 33 percent of abattoir workers, 15 percent of office workers, and 20 percent of engineers. The overall prevalence was 25 percent. A polymerase chain reaction was used to detect HPV DNA, which was detected in 61 percent or 151 out of 241 subjects. Of the participants, 76 had HPV 7 and 94 had HPV 2.
At the same time, meat workers mostly had HPV 7-associated warts, and HPV 7 was detected in none of the engineers and only 2 of the office workers. Another report described the presence of this HPV subtype in 486 meat workers, 168 of whom were infected with HPV and had hand warts. 74 of the meat handlers were infected with HPV 7, and the prevalence was found to be similar among butchers and abattoir workers (Journal Watch). Other HPV strains that cause butcher’s warts include HPV 28, HPV 10, HPV 4, HPV 3, HPV 2, and HPV 1.
Jerome Litt is the physician who first observed that meat workers had a higher incidence of hand warts compared to the general population. He made these observations in 1969, noting that hand warts grow in proliferate fashion, are quite abundant, and occur in the palmar and dorsal sides of the hand. He described these warts as having a cauliflower-like appearance. Hyperkeratinosis is observed in many cases where the stratum corneum or the epidermis’s outermost layer had darkened and thickened.
The higher prevalence of HPV warts in persons who handle meat remains the case today, and it has been estimated that about twenty-three percent of persons who handle poultry, fish, and meat will develop hand warts. Initially, scientists thought these warts were associated with butchering or slaughtering of cows. It was found, however, that persons who work in wholesale and retail butcher shops show evidence of a viral, professional-specific infection.