The “tree man” from Bangladesh, 27-year-old Abul Bajandar, did not have an easy life. The village rickshaw driver suffered bark-like warts on his hands and feet, with the condition developing for over a decade and getting to weigh a hefty 11 pounds.
But all these changed when Bajandar underwent the first set of surgical operations to address his rare skin condition. The doctors operated on him at least 16 times to remove the warts, and now he is able to see his hands and feet again after a very long time.
Overrun By HPV
The rare genetic disorder called Epidermodysplasia verruciformis is so rare that there are only three documented cases around the world. The disease, better known as “tree man disease” for the tree branch-like growths appearing on the body, makes the patients more prone to developing the human papilloma virus and skin tumors.
Patients of genetic disorder have mutations in two genes, EVER1 and EVER2. While it remains unclear how and why these gene mutations lead to the disease, it is believed that the said mutations make the body more vulnerable to HPV infections.
In Bajandar’s case, warts and skin tumors grew all over the hands and feet during his teens, multiplying rapidly while he was in his early 20s and making it hard to use the body parts. Once left to progress, the warts could have eventually led to his death.
He could not feed himself, work, or even brush his teeth, and his pain has led him and his wife to become desperate for help. His family had consulted doctors in India but couldn’t afford the treatment. So when he saw a television network covering their local elections, he sought for help and eventually became a global sensation receiving donations worldwide.
The HPV is normally implicated in genital warts as well as some forms of cancer. It is in fact the most common sexually transmitted disease, with almost all sexually active men and women thought to contract the virus at some point.
An HPV vaccine now exists to protect against most variations of the virus.
Treatment And Prevention
Experts say that there is currently no definitive cure for the disorder, with finding ways to address the resulting skin lesions “a constant struggle.”
Clearly, the team at Dhaka Medical College and Hospital who handled Bajandar’s case opted to perform 16 surgeries. It is yet to be known if the patient is already cured of the condition, but his warts could potentially grow back, an AFP report stated.
But aside from surgery, treatment can involve drugs known as retinoids, which can control cell growth and are used for skin treatment. Interferon, a protein created in the body for fighting viruses, is also deemed helpful.
While there is a range of treatments available, there is yet to be something curative and would completely stop lesions from reappearing after treatment, a 2010 paper on the condition warned.
Bandajar, however, chooses to see the bright side.
“Now I feel so much better, I can hold my daughter in my lap and play with her,” he said in an AFP report.