The College of Physicians of Philadelphia Digital Library

Genital Warts

About This Item


Genital Warts


Condylomata Acuminata
Reproductive Tract Infections


Why would anyone thread warts on a string to make a “necklace”? The simple answer: to study them. It’s much easier to see and compare small items like these genital warts when they’re suspended and separated, rather than being jumbled at the bottom of the jar.

Genital warts are caused by certain strains of human papillomaviruses (HPVs), the same type of viruses that cause warts on other parts of the body. In advanced cases, the warts can form thick growths over the genitals. HPVs also cause infections that may lead to cervical, vaginal, penile, anal, and throat cancers.

H. F. Nordeman, MD, wrote in 1893, “Nothing is more satisfactory than the treatment of venereal warts if we do not stop at half-way measures, but attack the enemy in his camp and destroy him.” He recommended surgically removing the warts or dissolving them with “powerful caustics” such as nitric or chromic acid. An 8% solution of cocaine, injected directly into the genitals, would reduce pain for the patient during treatment.

Current methods of genital wart removal are less harsh: surgery with local anesthesia (though not cocaine); freezing with liquid nitrogen; and laser treatment. Even after removal, however, warts can recur, since there is currently no cure for them. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that there are 14 million new anogenital HPV infections each year in the United States, with half of these in persons 15-24 years. Anogenital HPV infections are sexually transmitted; vaccines are available to prevent infections with the most common types of HPVs.


Digitized by the Mütter Museum of The College of Physicians of Philadelphia






19th Century

Original Format

Human tissue, string, glass container, methanol and ethyl alcohol


“Genital Warts,” The College of Physicians of Philadelphia Digital Library, accessed May 16, 2021,