The first recorded case of self-diagnosed Morgellons Disease occurred in 2003 when Mary Leitao’s discovered red, black and blue fibres protruding from her 2-year old lips. Her son felt ‘bugs’ inside his lip and gradually more sores on the skin started to develop. This led her to several pediatricians, allergists and dermatologists, none of which could diagnose the problem as any dermatological/biological condition.
The final physician who the family was meant to consult turned them downing claiming it was a case of Munchausen’s, where a mother often pretends or causes sickness in their child for more attention. However when Mary Leitao was denied further help from physicians, she named it ‘Morgellons’ which referred to a disease from the 17th century in French medical texts in which black hairs emerged from the skin.
Mary had created a website sharing their story and their understanding of the symptoms of this strange condition and the internet responded very strongly. Thousands contacted her claiming to suffer the exact same symptoms and by 2007, gathered over 8,000 people suffering the same conditions. Despite this however, the medical community maintained its position of it being a purely psychological phenomenon which had been around for hundred of years, known as delusional parasitosis.
Due to the media attention Morgellons Disease was receiving, it forced the federal government to launch an investigation through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to diagnose it. While the results of this investigation by the CDC only supported the existing hypothesis by physicians, those suffering from this condition are adamant there is more to it and thus, private funds and individuals have supported research hoping to find answers.
The medical opposition argue that the more symptoms are posted online and shared with others, the more likely it is that more suffer the same symptoms as the condition is psychological in nature. People begin to feel the symptoms just because they are reading them, akin to ‘Medical Student’s disease’ whereby studying different diseases leads to the symptoms of diseases, which they aren’t suffering from. However, this does not fully explain cases of patients who start experiencing symptoms suddenly without having any prior knowledge of it.