DHAKA • A young Bangladeshi girl with bark-like warts growing on her face could be the first female ever afflicted by the so-called "tree man syndrome", doctors studying the rare condition said yesterday.
Ten-year-old Sahana Khatun has the telltale gnarled growths sprouting from her chin, ear and nose, but doctors at Dhaka's Medical College Hospital are still conducting tests to establish if she has the unusual skin disorder.
Less than half a dozen people worldwide have epidermodysplasia verruciformis, but none so far have been women, said Dr Samanta Lal Sen, the head of the hospital's burn and plastic surgery unit. "We believe she is the first woman," he added.
The girl's father, a poor labourer from Bangladesh's rural north, said he did not worry too much when the first warts appeared on his daughter's face about four months ago. But as the growths spread rapidly, he grew concerned and took Khatun from their village to the capital, Dhaka, for treatment.
"We are very poor. My daughter lost her mother when she was only six. I really hope that the doctors will remove the barks from my beautiful daughter's face," Mr Mohammad Shahjahan said.
Another of the girl's doctors said the young patient was displaying a milder form of the disease, and it was hoped she would make a quicker recovery than those in the more advanced stages.
The hospital has been treating one man with a serious case of the disease for the better part of a year, conducting 16 surgical procedures to remove giant warts from his hands and legs. Huge growths weighing 5kg each had covered the hands of 27-year-old Abul Bajandar, the first recorded Bangladeshi to be suffering from the disease.
His plight has captured national attention and the interest of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, who promised the patient would receive treatment free of charge.
Doctors said in December that for the first time in a decade, Mr Bajandar had been able to touch his wife and daughter, and was almost ready to leave the ward.