The latest Morgellons disease research
Sufferers describe ghastly symptoms; but some doctors skeptical of claims
The Bay Area might be home to a small cluster of a horrifying and as-yet-incurable disease that leaves patients with open sores all over their bodies and strange, unidentifiable objects poking out of their skin.
Or not. It’s possible that this mystery disease is all in their heads.
The disease is called Morgellons, and no one knows what causes it or if it’s even real.
After more than a year of pressure from patients convinced they have Morgellons, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will begin investigating the ailment for the first time and determine, once and for all, whether it exists. The CDC started organizing a committee this week for that purpose.
“Not a day passes when I don’t talk to somebody who claims to have this,” said CDC spokesman Dan Rutz. “In the absence of any objective review, people have jumped to conclusions and found each other on the Internet and formed their own belief structure. We really need to debunk this if there isn’t anything to it or identify if there is indeed a new, unrecognized disease that needs attention.”
No one knows how long Morgellons has been around, but about four years ago a South Carolina mom who says her three children have the disease was researching their symptoms and found reference to a 1674 medical study that described a similar condition, called Morgellons.
The disease sounds like a nightmare. In fact, one Web site claims Morgellons was “invented” recently to help promote a summer horror movie. A search on the Internet reveals dozens of people who have posted magnified photos of their symptoms — usually twisted, thread-like protrusions from the skin and sometimes hazy images that look like small bugs.
It doesn’t help convince skeptical doctors that many sufferers complain of hard-to-believe symptoms. One San Francisco woman describes “tiny green shrimp” that come from her face, and she said she saw a fly pop out of her right eye. Even doctors and patients who believe Morgellons exists cringe at such reports.
“There really are physical symptoms that occur in people who are not crazy, although once they have it, it usually makes them pretty crazy,” said San Francisco Lyme disease specialist Dr. Raphael Stricker, who has seen several patients with Morgellons symptoms. Stricker and a handful of other doctors believe Morgellons is somehow related to Lyme disease because so many patients have already been diagnosed with Lyme disease.