Indonesia's wart-stricken "tree man" seeks help

TANJUNG JAYA, Indonesia (Reuters Life!) - Sacked from his job, deserted by his wife, shunned by neighbors -- “tree man” Dede has been treated as a freak for most of his life because of the gnarled growths sprouting from his hands and feet.

But now the 35-year-old Indonesian, hopes a doctor in the United States will be able to treat the horn-like extensions that started appearing on his body when he was a teenager.

Dede, who like many Indonesians goes by one name, first noticed warts on his body after cutting his knee as a teenager.

“First it felt itchy and some warts appeared on my feet,” Dede told Reuters Television at his home in the small village of Tanjung Jaya about 150 km (93 miles) south of Jakarta. “I neglected it and the growths quickly covered all my body.”

Unable to work because he cannot use his hands, and abandoned by his wife, Dede lives in poverty with two teenage daughters.

“I can’t go anywhere, I just stay here,” he said because his hands and feet are so heavy and cumbersome due to the growths.

He briefly joined a freak show in the nearby city of Bandung in order to earn some money, but he is often the target of abuse and ridicule in his village.

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In 1993, he was admitted to a local hospital, but doctors could not find a cure for his condition.

But now, an American doctor has proposed possible treatment.

According to media reports, Dr. Anthony Gaspari from University of Maryland tested Dede’s blood and said that the growths are the result of Human Papilloma Virus (HPV), a fairly common infection that usually causes small warts.

Dr. Gaspari, who became involved in the case through a Discovery Channel documentary, believes Dede’s condition can be cleared up using daily doses of a synthetic form of Vitamin A, which has been shown to arrest the growth of warts in severe cases of HPV, according to media reports.

Editing by Sara Webb and Miral Fahmy