Its know as ‘Morgellons Disease’ - have you ever heard of it?
The condition was not even described as a disease until 2002. Mary Leitao’s 2 year old son developed sores under his lip in 2001. He began to complain of ‘bugs’. Lietao examined the sores and discovered ‘bundles of fibers’ in red, blue, black and white. She took her son to multiple doctors who could not find any disease, allergy or other explanation for his symptoms. Her son developed more sores. Fibers continued to poke out of them. Leitao, a trained biologist, named the condition Morgellons disease, from a description advanced by Sir Thomas Browne in a 1690 monograph. There is no suggestion that the two conditions are linked.
The first journal to discuss Morgellans was co-authored by Leitao, and two other members of the MRF (Morgellons Research Foundation) and was published July 2006 by the American Journal of Clinical Dermatology. A New Scientist article published in September 2007 also covered the condition noting that it extends to Europe and Australia.
According to Reuters on Jan 18, 2008, ‘U.S. health authorities said they will conduct an investigation to get to the bottom of an unexplained illness marked by skin lesions that do not heal and a batch of other symptoms.’
Again from the Reuters article, ‘The illness is called Morgellons disease, and some doctors have questioned whether it is a real medical condition. An advocacy group seeking a cure said doctors have diagnosed some people with it’s symptoms as delusional – a view the group rejects.’
The U. S. Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), said that the investigation will involve patients in northern California and may take as much as a year. The study will be conducted with the Armed Forces Pathology Institute and Kaiser Permanente.
A representative of the CDC associated with the study, characterized the patients as experiencing real suffering, but was not prepared to say whether it is a syndrome or a disease. At this time it remains an unexplained illness.
The patient focus will be on those in the Kaiser Permanente Northern California Health Plan who sought medical care during the 18 month period ending in December 2007, and had symptoms consistent with those attributed to Morgellons disease, according to Dr. Joe Selby, a senior Kaiser Permanente researcher. The individuals will have a thorough clinical evaluation including mental health examination.
A Center for Disease Control and Prevention task force met in June 2006, and in July 2006 a CDC spokesperson said “We’re not ready to concede there’s a new disease, but the volume of concern has stepped up because a lot of people are writing or calling their congressmen about it.” The task force consisted of 12 people, which included two pathologists, a toxicologist, an ethicist, a mental health expert and specialists in infectious, parasitic, environmental and chronic disease.
Morgellons is not currently a recognized disorder, so there is no list of symptoms that is accepted by the medical community. Patients usually self-diagnose, based on media reports and information published by the MRF. The symptoms usually associated with Morgellons are:
• Disturbing sensations of insect like crawling, stinging or biting on or under the skin
• Skin rashes and lesions that do not heal
• Fiber-like filaments, granules or crystals that appear on or under the skin or that can be extracted from the lesions
• Joint, muscle and connective tissue pain, including fybromyalgia
• Debilitating fatigue
• Cognitive dysfunction, including difficulty with concentration, short-term memory and attention span
The 2007 Atlas of Human Parasitology states:
Many dermatologists refute the suggestion that this is an actual disease but instead indicate that many of these patients have psychological problems or other common skin disorders. Given the large numbers of individuals who feel that they have this affliction, it will be most helpful over the coming years to have a valid scientific assessment of Morgellons disease and its possible etiology (or etiologies). One of the chief criticisms by many patients has been that they feel the medical community and other scientists consulted have not been open to the idea that there is possibly an as yet undescribed infectious or physiologic causation for the disease. However it is certainly true that in fact many expert parasitologists, medical entomologists and other microbiologists have in fact carefully examined fibers and other materials expressed or extracted from such patients and found that biological organisms are not present. Although an apparent association of the condition with the presence of Lyme disease has been reported, further research will be needed to help resolve the validity of Morgellons disease. Until then, whether Morgellons disease is another name for delusional parasitosis or a real disease entity with biologic or physiologic basis will remain up in the air.
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