A Ghastly Affliction

My son Nick asked me yesterday if I had ever heard of something called Morgellons disease. I hadn’t, so I looked it up online. It is, as they say in England, a rum business indeed.

Morgellons is, according to its Wikipedia entry, “a condition characterized by a range of cutaneous (skin) symptoms including crawling, biting, and stinging sensations; finding fibers on or under the skin; and persistent skin lesions (e.g., rashes or sores)”.

This sounds awfully unpleasant, and given the part about the “fibers”, more than a little strange.

Reading on, we learn:

In 2001, biologist Mary Leitao’s two-year-old son developed sores under his lip and began to complain of “bugs.” Leitao examined the sores and discovered red, blue, black and white “bundles of fibers.” She took her son to see at least eight different doctors who were unable to find any disease, allergy, or other explanation for the symptoms, but her son developed more sores, and more fibers continued to poke out of them. She chose the name Morgellons disease (with a hard g) from a description of an illness in the monograph A Letter to a Friend by Sir Thomas Browne, in 1690, wherein he describes several medical conditions in his experience, including “that endemial distemper of children in Languedoc, called the morgellons, wherein they critically break out with harsh hairs on their backs.” There is no suggestion that the two are linked.

The disorder involves an odd assortment of symptoms:

  • Disturbing sensations of insect-like crawling, stinging or biting on or under the skin (formication)
  • 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 lesions
  • Joint, muscle and connective tissue pain, including fibromyalgia
  • Debilitating fatigue
  • Cognitive dysfunction, including difficulty with concentration, short-term memory, and attention

Whatever it is, a lot of people seem to be getting it. The article tells us:

Leitao founded the Morgellons Research Foundation (MRF) in 2002. The MRF states on its website that its purpose is to raise awareness and funding for research into the condition, described by the organization as “a newly emerging infectious disease”. Leitao stated that she initially hoped to receive information from scientists or physicians who might understand the problem, but instead, thousands of others contacted her describing their sores and fibers, as well as neurological symptoms, fatigue, muscle and joint pain, and other symptoms. The MRF has now received claimed reports of Morgellons from all 50 US states and 15 nations, including Canada, the UK, Australia, and the Netherlands, and states that they have been contacted by over 10,000 families.

I think this is all very odd. Especially those fibers.

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7 Comments

  1. What a sad thing for that little boy.

    It’s like something out of Body Snatchers, as though the poor people are hosts to some entity that will take over and replace them.

    Ugh. I hope that medical research can quickly quell this monstrous Ungeheuer.

    Jeffery Hodges

    * * *

    Posted February 5, 2008 at 7:43 am | Permalink
  2. Malcolm says

    Yes, if nothing else, he’s far too young to be formicating.

    Posted February 5, 2008 at 9:57 am | Permalink
  3. eugene says

    I just thought whether this is a possible genetic malfunction due to several possibilities.
    1. mutation from gene
    2. mutation from contact to virus similar to HPV.

    I wonder have you seen those human jackalope pictures before? Skin and hair cells replicate very frequent and maybe the skin or hair cells start to synthesize polysaccharides or proteins which has characteristics of forming large polymolecule structure.

    I wish they find out the cause. If it is a genetic thing, maybe we can extract the gene and transfer it to some poor bacteria in lab to manufacture new winter cashmere wear for ladies. Hey, no animal cruelty involves and absolutely natural fiber without all problem in raising sheep!

    Posted February 5, 2008 at 2:00 pm | Permalink
  4. bob koepp says

    eugene – pity the poor bacteria. just because they aren’t warm and fuzzy doesn’t mean they don’t have feelings ;-)

    Posted February 5, 2008 at 4:00 pm | Permalink
  5. MikeZ says

    Malcolm, I am very surprised you had never heard of this. It’s been covered a couple of times in the news in the past several years and I believe the CDC recently announced they had some budget to study it. What gives? Try and stay on top of things, ok?

    – M

    Posted February 7, 2008 at 8:21 pm | Permalink
  6. Malcolm says

    Yikes! You’re right. I am so very ashamed.

    Posted February 8, 2008 at 12:36 am | Permalink
  7. MikeZ says

    Yikes! I forgot the “:-)”

    – M

    Posted February 11, 2008 at 9:00 pm | Permalink