Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Mysterious disease: Half tree half man

Dede, 32, a former Indonesian fisherman has an extraordinary skin condition: he has root like structures growing ot of his body – branches that can grow up to 5cm a year and which  protrude from his hands and feet, and welts covering his whole body. He is locally known as “Tree Man” and his condition has baffled local doctors for 20 years. Dr Anthony Gaspari, a world expert in skin conditions from the University of Maryland travels to Indonesia to attempt to diagnose Dede’s mysterious condition.

From the scientific aspect, Dede’s mysterious disease is called Epidermodysplasia verruciformis, an extremely rare autosomal ressesive genetic hereditary skin disorder. It is characterized by abnormal susceptibility to human papillomaviruses (HPVs) of the skin. The uncontrolled HPV infections result in the growth of scaly like structures particularly on the hands and feet. It is typically associated with HPV types 5 and 8, which are found in about 80% of the normal population as asymptomatic infections, although other types may also contribute.

On August 26, 2008, MSNBC reported that Dede had returned home following surgery to remove thirteen pounds (5.8 kilo) of warts from his body. Overall, 95% of the warts were removed. The treatment allowed Koswara to use his hands and move with relative freedom for the first time in years. On December 12, 2008 however, MSNBC reported that his warts had returned and it appears he will need two surgeries a year for the rest of his life to keep them at bay.

Dede after surgery

Dede is not the only one suffering from this mysterious disease. In 2009 the Discovery Channel episode "Treeman Meets Treeman" reported on another Indonesian man, from the same region as Dede, who also has the disease and was given a similar treatment for it. Thus far his treatment seems to have worked better. In the Netherlands, a man of Indonesian ethnicity also had the disease and was treated with radiation therapy, which seemed to be successful but gave him crippling cancer. Half way across the world, in Romania, farmer Ion Toader is discovered to have a similar extraordinary ‘Tree Man’ condition, with growths all over his hands. He has not been able to drive a tractor for five years. A Romanian surgeon offers to give him an operation to remove his growths.

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