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World’s fifth ‘tree man’ in Bangladesh

The symptoms can be alleviated by taking vitamins and anti-viral medication.

Ten years ago, Abul Bajandar was a fit young man who paddled vans for a living. But on a certain rainy day in 2005, he noticed warty “roots” growing out of his arms and legs. Over the next few years, the warts multiplied and sprouted like tree roots, eventually rendering his hands and feet useless.

Abul, now 26, travelled from his home district of Khulna to Dhaka in search of better treatment as his condition deteriorated. Doctors at the Dhaka Medical College and Hospital were startled as they had seen nothing like it before.

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DMCH burn institute coordinator Dr Samanta Lal Sen told the Dhaka Tribune: “This extremely rare genetic skin disease is epidermodysplasia verruciform, which is also referred to as the “Tree Man Disease”, an immune deficiency. It causes abnormal susceptibility to human papilloma viruses (HPVs), which eventually leads to the overgrowth of scaly macules and papules, especially on the feet and hands.”

He said the disease was not contagious.

Abul is the fifth person in the world reported to be suffering from the disease. The others are Ion Toader, Dede Kosawa, Zainal and Ivan. Dede and Zainal hail from the same area in Indonesia. Ivan is from Netherlands but his father grew up in Indonesia while Toader is a Romanian. Except Toader, the other three have genetic roots in West Java.

When the warts first appeared, Abul went after the local ‘Kaviraj’ for treatment. “But I visited doctors in the city when the warts started taking the shape of tree roots. During those days I could at least peddle van,” he said.

The last five years had been particularly painful for him. “I lost the use of my hands and legs. What’s more, either my wife or my mother has to help me clean up after I use the toilet,” Abul added.

He went to Khulna Medical College Hospital (KMCH) as the pain gradually became intolerable. But doctors failed to identify his ailment and suggested him to go to India.

“I had no choice but to beg for money. I went to Kolkata five to six times. After my third or fourth visit, doctors told me that no medicine would cure me. They said I needed to undergo surgery,” said Abul, who lives in Paikgacha upazila’s Sorol village with his wife and three-year-old daughter.

His mother and elder sister brought him to the DMCH with assistance from KMCH officials.

The problem with “Tree Man Disease” is that there is still no cure. The warts can be surgically removed but they will grow back, sometimes faster, as in the case of Dede Kosawa, who appeared in a Discovery channel documentary “Treeman: Search for the Cure”.

Also, the direct radiation therapy to control the wart’s growth is a risky business as it has led to cancer in one patient, Ivan. However, the symptoms can be alleviated by taking vitamins and anti-viral medication.

Scientists and doctors are studying three cases of the disease, hoping to find a genetic link that will lead to a cure.

DMCH’s Dr Sen said they would form a medical board for Abul and decide on his treatment. “We are running some tests,” he said. “We are not sure about the reason of this disease as this is a rare case and the first one reported in our country.”

Find the news link here

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