Issue 5, July 2003
A New Medical Breakthrough: Wart to do when Verruca vulgaris Attacks
Natural Resources, Cornell University - 2003
lives where most life does not... enduring and proliferating. It
wreaks havoc in the cracks and crevasses of the skin and other mucous
membranes, often causing discomfort and cosmetic embarrassment.
Figure 1. Warts affect three out of every four people, making them the most common dermatological
complaint after acne.
Courtesy of WebMD,
Hunterdon Healthcare System.)
As obdurate and unsightly as its name,
Verruca vulgaris, the common wart inconveniently finds temporary niches on thousands of people,
many of whom avoid revealing its unwelcome existence (see Figure 1).
The common wart removal experience
most people, especially children and teenagers, revealing that a
wart has invaded and colonized a part of their body has often meant
subjection to painful cryotherapy - the removal of warts by freezing
them with liquid nitrogen.
Mandy Redig, a JYI science journalist and student at Arizona University,
remembers, (yet wishes she could forget), her wart removal experience
at the age of six. Redig claims she had a sadistic doctor who scraped
her two warts till they bled, then poured liquid nitrogen all over
them. "I screamed and screamed. It was horrible," she says.
A less painful and invasive therapy for wart removal
six-year olds and the many other patients who are afflicted with
the common wart, caused by human papillomaviruses, can be spared
nightmarish experiences like Redig's. Researchers at the Madigan
Army Medical Center in Tacoma, Wash., have discovered a less painful
and invasive therapy for wart removal.
Neither abrasive liquid chemicals that attack chemically sensitive
nociceptors, (pain receptors embedded the skin), nor time consuming
and costly dermatologist visits are needed. Rather, as reported
in the October 2002 issue of the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent
Medicine, all that is needed to remove the common wart are a
few pieces of household duct tape, a small pumice stone, and one
to two months of patience.
Who would have thought that duct tape, invented during WWII by Johnson
& Johnson to keep moisture out of ammunition cases, would one day
be used to therapeutically remove the common wart? Already one of
the most versatile tools in the household, duct tape can now add
wart removal to its ever-expanding résumé.
Dr. Dean R. Focht III of the Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical
Center and principal researcher for the study says duct tape irritated
the warts, apparently causing an immune system reaction that attacked
2. Duct tape is composed of three layers. A layer of fabric
mesh (2) is enveloped by a layer of rubber-based adhesive
(1) and a layer of polyethylene plastic (3). Courtesy of
Duct Tape Guys.
effectiveness of duct tape could possibly stem from its three-ply
Great Fact Finder website shows that duct tape is composed of
three layers (see Figure 2). The top layer is a resilient plastic
(polyethylene). The bottom layer is a rubber-based adhesive, and
in between is a layer of fabric mesh. Yet whether it is the actual
composition of the tape or its mere application to the wart, the
use of duct tape, (termed duct tape occlusion therapy) has a higher
success rate for wart removal than cryotherapy. In Focht's study,
85% patients ranging from 3 to 22 years of age who underwent duct
tape occlusion therapy had complete "resolution of the warts," compared
to only 60% patients undergoing cryotherapy. With such a high success
rate, unaccompanied by burning, itching, and sometimes indescribable
pain, duct tape would seem to have a promising future as the preferred
method of treatment to remove the common wart.
Christina DeMichele, a recent Boston College graduate, would never
have undergone cryotherapy if she'd known that duct tape occlusion
therapy existed. The liquid nitrogen applied to the warts on her
knee first caused blisters two to three times the size of the wart.
Then the warts turned a disgusting blackish-brownish color and throbbed.
"The nights I came home from the dermatologist, I knew I was not
going to get any sleep. It was impossible to ignore the pain," she
Now all she would have to do is apply duct tape, rub the wart-infected
area with a pumice stone, and repeat until the warts disappeared.
(See side bar for step-by-step instructions). Occlusion therapy
may save people the time and expense of dermatologist visits, as
well as avoiding a treatment that tests, if not surpasses, their
tolerance for pain.
Tape Occlusion Therapy: Removal of the Common Wart (Verruca
a piece of duct tape as close to the size of the wart
on for six days.
the original piece of duct tape falls off, immediately
replace with more duct tape.
the end of six days, remove the tape, soak the area
in water, and then gently rub the wart with an emery
board or pumice stone.
tape off for overnight, and then reapply the next
until the wart(s) disappear (maximum 2 months).
Other home remedies for the common wart
besides duct tape, other home remedies for the common wart are ubiquitous,
albeit unscientifically tested. The common wart historically has had
a negative connotation - often associated with witches and toads -
so people have long sought methods to contain or destroy these benign,
yet aesthetically unpleasing, growths.
According to the Recipe
Goldmine website, a vitamin E bath with a bandage works wonders,
as do crushed garlic cloves. According to Food Folklore, cutting an
apple into as many pieces as there are warts, rubbing each piece on
a wart and then burying it in the earth cures the affliction. As unlikely
as these cures and countless others may seem, they might be worth
a try. Why? Prior to the release of the Archives study and
duct tape's new claim to fame, the British Journal of Medicine
published in August 2002 a systematic review of folk treatments for
cutaneous warts. It showed that, apart from topical treatments containing
salicylic acid, there is no clear evidence that any treatments for
warts are effective. In addition, the reviewers found no clear evidence
that any of the medical treatments, (including cryotherapy) have higher
cure rates or fewer side effects than the folk remedies.
Beyond painful cryotherapy
when it comes to treatment of the common wart, duct tape and other
home remedies may unexpectedly usurp the chemical and drug-based
wart treatments of Western medicine. Until dermatologists can determine
why some people get warts and others do not, or why some people
can fight warts off without any treatment, while others need multiple
treatments, (as Redig and my sister did), there's no reason for
people to subject themselves to rounds of cryotherapy.
Rather, as the Archives recent study indicates, people can
simply visit their tool kit or kitchen drawer and find that reliable,
gray roll of tape. Soon this super tape may adorn not only their
kitchen appliances and broken ceramic dishes, but also their knees,
fingers, and toes.
Academy of Dermatology: Public Resources http://www.aad.org/pamphlets/warts.html
Colorado Health Site. http://www.coloradohealthsite.org/CHNReports/warts_ducttape.html.
The Dermatology Channel http://www.dermatologychannel.net/viral_infection/warts.shtml
Duck Products.com http://www.duckproducts.com/
Duct Tape Headline News: http://www.octanecreative.com/ducttape/dtnews.html
Focht DR 3rd, Spicer C, Fairchok MP. The efficacy of duct tape vs.
cryotherapy in the treatment of verruca vulgaris (the common wart).
Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 2002 Oct; 156(10):971-4.
Gibbs S, Harvey I, Sterling J, Stark R. Local treatments for cutaneous
warts: systematic review. BMJ. 2002 Aug;325(7362):461.
The Great Idea Finder. http://www.ideafinder.com/history/inventions/ducttape.htm.
May 29, 2002.
Medline Plus Wart Information website at: http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/warts.html
Journal of Young
Investigators. 2003. Volume Seven.
Copyright © 2003 by Jennifer DeMichele and JYI. All rights reserved.