KUALA LUMPUR, 9 July 2019:
Not many realise the danger of the human papillomavirus (HPV) – which is incurable and can cause warts or growths all over the body and also cervical cancer.
In rare cases, HPV infection can trigger a condition known as epidermodysplasia verruciformis – resulting in painful gray and white growths on the body and limbs. Also known as “tree man” syndrome because these large growths can resemble tree bark – this happens because the immune system is unable to fight off the HPV.
When the “tree man” syndrome becomes widespread, the only solution currently is for the patient to undergo painful surgery to remove the growths.
This can be an endless cycle as the lesions keep growing back – which causes some desperate to be rid of the constant pain to even seek amputations.
“Amputation is a non-starter that would create more problems,” said Hadassah Medical Center senior hand and microvascular surgeon Dr Michael Chernofsky, as the cut nerves will continue to register pain and growths can recur elsewhere on the body.
His team’s solution was to dig out the lesions’ roots to stop regrowth and also prevent its spread in their patient. “”We realised he was just reinfecting himself by touching lesions, then touching other parts of his body.”
In Malaysia, the government offers free HPV vaccination for citizens or permanent resident females born 1992-1996, as well as in public schools.