This story was originally written for Paste Health
Bangladeshi man Abul Bajandar got the nickname “Tree Man” when he was about 25 years old. As jovial as it may sound, the title referred to an incredibly rare, debilitating disease that cost him his ability to work and even complete simple tasks such as brushing his own teeth.
Bajandar’s condition—scientifically referred to as epidermodysplasia verruciformis—causes warts and skin tumors to grow rapidly, and often uncontrollably, throughout the body. For Bajandar, the warts grew around his hands, taking over them entirely and causing them to look as though they were covered in large, rigid tree branches.
However, Bajandar will now finally be able to live a normal life again, as a series of 16 surgeries over the course of the past year have removed the warts, and allowed him to regain use of his hands.
As tree man illness, as its often colloquially called, is both rare and highly invasive, Bajandar’s recovery makes him the first person to ever be fully cured of the disease.
The reason epidermodysplasia verruciformis is so difficult to treat is due to its tendency to cause sever cases of human papillomavirus (HPV), which is often transmitted sexually and can cause genital warts as well as skin lesions. In the case of tree man disease, and in similarly rare HPV-causing conditions, the warts begin to grow almost entirely uninhibited and can take over entire parts of the body.
In the past, those suffering from the disease have only had the hope of a cure, and many have died at a young age due to complications associated with their ailment. For example, there’s the case of Indonesian man Dede Koswar —also referred to locally as the tree man—who suffered from a similar HPV-related condition. Koswar, whose warts and lesions had encompassed both his feet and his hands entirely, died early last year in treatment while awaiting the possibility of a cure.
With Bajandar’ situation, it’s still unclear whether or not his tree-like warts could grow back, but for now there seems to finally be a cure for this crippling, and wildly bizarre, disease.