Is Morgellons Disease Physiological or Dermatological?

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Morgellons disease has been a controversial topic over the past few years on whether Morgellons is a psychiatric condition or a physical one which causes painful lesions amongst other unpleasant symptoms. Sufferers often describe the symptoms to feel as if there are bugs or parasites in their skin which cause constant itchiness and fibres to protrude from skin lesions. The debate has been whether these sensations are simply neurological or not, the former of which many physicians seem to agree as no parasites or foreign bodies are found in the skin. Symptoms are not limited to these sensation though, as it has also reported to cause extreme fatigue, hair loss, short term memory loss and even joint pain. However as the debate goes on, Morgellons sufferers have borne the brunt of it all with little to no resolution in treatment.

Medical examiners have labelled this ‘Delusion of Parasitosis’ (DOP) where patients potentially feel fibres from an animal, their clothes or other sources from the environment and begin having self-inflicted symptoms by continually itching. Because of the number of people being denied any treatment further than psychological drugs, thousands wrote to Congress demanding action. There were even some popular artists who admitted they were also suffering such as folk singer Joni Mitchell as well as a segment airing airing on the popular CBS TV show “Criminal Minds” which raised awareness on the disease.

This led to a million dollar investment into forming an investigation by the CDC, that span over 6 years, to study whether the disease had any biological standing. A team of 15 researches published papers that interviewed 115 self-described Morgellons sufferers concluded that the fibres they analysed were made of cellulose which confirmed the suspicion that fibres from clothing most fell into patient’s lesions.

As a result of this research, the medical community became even less sympathetic towards Morgellons patients that it left many sufferers feeling alienated. However an external peer review of the research by the Holman Foundation found that none of the participating patients had lesions characteristic of Morgellons which seriously affects credibility.

One theory proposed by Dr Anne Louise Oaklander, an associate professor at Harvard Medical College, suggested that patients are not suffering from neurological conditions but a chronic itch condition, the heart of the problem lying in the network of nerves that control the itch function. It is thought itching is an evolutionary trait to warn us of dangerous insects such as mosquitos that can spread fatal diseases. Our nervous system reacts to an insect landing as an itch so that we can remove the danger. Oaklander believes that the itching sensation triggered by our nerves responding is what intuitively causes people to assume it is some kind of bug or parasite.

New Research

However since then, new research has evolved and shown that in fact, it may be the Borrelia bacterium that is causing the symptoms. Borrelia has been detected in all Morgellons patients so far which is the same bacteria causing Lyme disease, nonetheless, patients with Morgellons also test negative for Lymes disease, which has further complicated matters.

A research team from Oklahoma State University Center also carried out research on the fibres patients sent them, which despite being taken from a number of individuals, looked similar. They also found that these fibres all contained a soil bacteria called Agrobacterium which can genetically transform into plant and human cells.

As research continues from a number of different independent parties to understand more on the causes, there has been no breakthrough in known forms of treatment yet. The good news is, a greater proportion of the medical community are now open to the Morgellons being more than just psychological which will speed up the process of research.

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