Conspiracy to cover up hysterical delusions?

I heard about a strange new disease today:

If diseases like AIDS and bird flu scare you, wait until you hear what's next. Doctors are trying to find out what is causing a bizarre and mysterious infection that's surfaced in South Texas.

Morgellons disease is not yet known to kill, but if you were to get it, you might wish you were dead, as the symptoms are horrible.

"These people will have like beads of sweat but it's black, black and tarry," said Ginger Savely, a nurse practioner in Austin who treats a majority of these patients.

Patients get lesions that never heal.

"Sometimes little black specks that come out of the lesions and sometimes little fibers," said Stephanie Bailey, Morgellons patient.

Patients say that's the worst symptom — strange fibers that pop out of your skin in different colors.

The description of symptoms reads like something out of a science fiction novel, and the disease is completely new. They don't know what it is or what is causing it, but they've come up with a name -- and a web site -- Morgellons Disease:
The unknown fibers associated with skin lesions can be described as coenocytic (aseptate), smooth-walled, branching, filamentous objects. The fibers have been analyzed by FTIR (Fourier Transform Infrared Spectroscopy) and have tentatively been identified as cellulose.

The elongated fibers are often twisted into balls or what appear to be bundles of fibers, as they grow within the skin. Many people refer to these bundles as fiber balls, fuzz balls, or lint balls. The fibers are clearly hyphae-like structures, and yet, do not fall within the description of known hyphae or pseudohyphae. The fibers are most often white, but are also consistently seen as blue, black, and rarely red.

These fibers exhibit a high degree of autofluorescence and are not textile derived.


This reminds me of the extraterrrestial disease plaguing Stephen King's character ("The Lonesome Death of Jordy Verrill") in Creep Show. While I wish I could declare this some sort of hoax, the Center for Disease control is said to be taking it very seriously:

The physician should contact the county health department and inform them that they have a patient suspected of having Morgellons disease, etiology unknown. The county health department should then contact the state health department, who will in turn inform the CDC about the patient in question.

Note: Some county and state health departments are unaware that the CDC has a team assigned to investigate Morgellons Disease.

The Museum of Hoaxes offers inconclusive speculation about whether it's a hoax. More discussion here. And Popular Mechanics discusses both sides:
Across the country, thousands of people complaining of the same horrifying phenomenon have formed an illness subculture. They share lists of symptoms, medical speculation and tales of run-ins with mainstream doctors at, the official Web site of a group called the Morgellons Research Foundation. It was founded in 2002 by Mary Leitao in McMurray, Pa. Leitao named the condition Morgellons Disease--after a disease with similar symptoms mentioned in a 16th-century medical text--while investigating a skin affliction on her then-2-year-old son.

Morgellons has barely registered on the radar of mainstream medicine. Few doctors have heard of the condition; fewer still know what to make of it. So when people walk into an examination room and announce they have Morgellons, they are often met with skepticism. Conflicts would seem to be inevitable.

"Dermatologists are afraid to see these patients," says Dr. Peter Lynch, professor emeritus of dermatology at the University of California, Davis. He says he has examined about 75 people with Morgellons-like symptoms in the past 35 years and believes they suffer from delusional parasitosis--literally, delusions of parasites in the skin. It's a diagnosis people don't like. One patient, threatening malpractice, convinced the state medical board to investigate Lynch. Another warned he had a pistol in the glove compartment of his truck, Lynch says. "He told me, 'I'm going to shoot the next doctor who tells me it's in my head.'"

An illness subculture? Hmmmm.....

I'm wondering. Might it be related to an excess of methamphetamine or other drug use? (Years ago I knew a man who was absolutely convinced that there were tiny critters -- "THEY CAN'T BE CAUGHT! AND THEY CAN'T BE SEEN!" he claimed -- crawling all over the house, and his body. Drugs had made his perceptions overly sensitive to the human scabies mites, which we all have but which normal people don't, um, "feel.")

Not that hysterical illnesses need be drug related. I knew a woman who suffered from hysterical blindness but who really was blind. Her eye doctor knew enough about psychiatry to ask her about her emotional life and when she told him that she had a violently abusive husband, he solemnly told her that her blindness would not go away until she had left her husband for at least a few months. She left her husband, and three months later, she could see.

Concludes Popular Mechanics:

Leitao and other Morgellons activists say that, with the Web as a primary tool, they'll continue working to have the illness investigated as an infectious disease. Doctors interviewed by PM say this unilateral approach hinders objective analysis of symptoms they've seen for decades. Well, all symptoms except for one: Widespread reports of the strange fibers date back only three years, to the time they were first described online, at

Disease or not, the phenomenon is not limited to Texas. According to Fox News, cases have occurred in the San Francisco Bay Area:

KTVU broke this story last year and now we've learned more than 1,200 people nationwide say they have the same skin lesions and bizarre fibers. Ironically, most are in the medical profession. Adults as well as children have it and it may be contagious.

Evidence is beginning to mount linking this syndrome to Lyme Disease from tick bites.

"The population of people with Lyme Disease believe this is another infection that travels with the Lyme organism," said Dr. Jennifer Choate, a hematologist who helped treat Dillon. "It makes sense because it is in that group we are seeing this pattern."

Marin microbiologist Jenny Haverty has also be studying the mystery malady.

"I accepted specimens from four different people in four different counties in the Bay Area, and I looked at them very carefully over and over again under the microscope," she said. "The colors and shapes of the fibers of each individual were very, very similar."

Tests on similar fibers taken from Bishop's skin and those of several other patients in the Bay Area show them to be tiny tubes of protein. But how and why the filaments are formed remains a mystery for now.

Could it be a mass delusion?

What does the CDC say officially, anyway?

A big fat nothing. Nada. Zip.

What raises my antennae is the absence of anything on the CDC web site coupled with the Morgellons web site assertion that "the CDC has a team assigned to investigate Morgellons Disease."

A grand conspiracy, or a mass delusion?

You decide.

Morgellons1.jpg Morgellons2.jpg

As for me, I intend to keep checking for symptoms!

posted by Eric on 05.12.06 at 04:40 PM


Thanks, Eric, these pieces are great for certified hypochondriacs like me. I've already had cancer this month.

Joyce Carol Oates wrote a great story, "The Affliction," a lurid metaphor for the creative process, about a successful artist whose career is making paintings from painful fibers & filaments that grow from his own body: art as affliction

beautifulatrocities   ·  May 12, 2006 5:46 PM

Art is pain, so please afflict some on me!


Eric Scheie   ·  May 14, 2006 1:18 AM

I have been doing a bit of research and I'm seeing a lot of similarities with UFO's and Big Foot websites with morgellon's disease websites. When I see some concrete proof... any concrete proof, then I'll believe it.

Alex   ·  May 14, 2006 10:42 PM

I post as questionhair on Lymebusters / Morgellons and also on NUSPA's message board. I've followed the message boards for over a year now since I found that was where I could find good tips for relief from symptoms.

This disease is having a hard time getting recognized, as did AIDS, Lupus, and Lyme Disease. The worst source of dismissal is not the internet, but the very doctors we seek treatment from.

Here are some links to recent television news coverage and articles on Morgellons. They include interviews with sufferers, individuals, families, and even the family of a former Oakland A's relief pitcher. There are also doctors who don't believe, and that do believe.

Also, from the scientist researching Morgellons is this brief interview mp3 file. Please click and listen to "Dr Wymore Speaks":

Thank you for your open-minded consideration of this disease. Until the CDC genuinely investigates this disease with an unknown cause, it may continue to spread.


Diana   ·  May 24, 2006 5:06 PM

The belief that one has this condition is spread by the hysteria of people like questionhair and her delusional friends. Go to and read about the child abuse and animal abuse. Those people may have real medical concerns, but it's obvious that their mental disorders far outweigh them. It's pathetic how they treat their children and their pets. There is no Morgellons Disease, but the recent news releases are spreading the madness.

Tall Cotton

Tall Cotton   ·  May 27, 2006 1:16 AM

See the bottom of this website for this quote:

"94% of Patients with Morgellons have Lyme disease."


Whether Morgellons patients have an underlying Lyme disease or some other disease, the skin lesions, fibers, itching, and "crawling" skin and scalp symptoms could be a symptom of a disease. Parasitic co-infections of bugs could be a result of a systemic fungal infection, candida, or a variety of infections that could come about due to a weakened immune system.

From NP Ginger Savely:

” . . . I now have 31 patients who fit the criteria for Morgellons disease. These patients have come to me from all over Texas, desperate for answers. I continue to be impressed with the consistency of their stories. All but one of these patients have tested positive for Lyme borreliosis, so I am currently treating them with antibiotics and seeing some remission in Morgellons symptoms . . .”

( From:
html&AD=05-01-2005 )

The article ends with this statement:

“Rather than being quick to pigeonhole these patients into a psychiatric diagnosis, we owe it to them to thoroughly investigate the cause of their symptoms. Morgellons disease is a reminder that we have much to learn by really listening to the patient.”

And, again from Ginger Savely:

” . . . The two main occupational groups reporting symptoms of Morgellons disease are nurses and teachers. Nurses outnumber teachers 3 to 1, but both occupational groups represent a significant percentage of patients with this disease. It is unclear what the risk factors might be, but researchers are exploring the possibility of casual transmission. . .”

questionhair   ·  May 30, 2006 9:21 PM

30 of 31 Morgellons patients tested positive for Lyme borreliosis.

(Borreliosis, neuroborreliosis; also known as Lyme Disease)

Spread primarily though the bite of infected ticks that live on a wide range of mammalian species; secondary human-to-human transmission through se men, brest milk, and possibly in utero."

Most Morgellons patients are automatically labeled Delusional as soon as they mention their unusual symptoms. Most have no testing or examination done at their doctor's appointments because the doctors are using an old tired 1938 unproven theory to diagnose - Ekbom's theory of Delusional Parasitosis. Instead, the doctors should be using examinations, preferably with lighted magnifying glass es, taking blood tests and skin samples, etc. Delayed treatment of Lyme disease because the MD believes the patient is Delusional can have serious consequences including much suffering and a shortened life for the patient.

30 of 31 Morgellons patients tested positive for Lyme Borrelia.

Diana   ·  May 30, 2006 9:25 PM

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Atlanta, Georgia, U.S.A.

(404) 639-3311

June 1, 2006

Dan Rutz of the CDC on the phone.

The CDC has chosen a head researcher to lead a group, currently in the process of assemblage, to investigate Morgellon's.

Here's a very lucid person with a dry sense of humor, an Intel microscope, and continuing to keep an open mind about possibilities:

Exactly What Morgellon's IS...

whether natural or unnatural mutation, whether something very old awakened in the environment or something very new released, whether a unique complex of the known come together naturally or unnaturally, whether something that has been going on under the radar and is just now coming to light or something that really is a recent novel addition to the scene

...the, "kind," with the physical evidences that has prompted formation of a CDC group dedicated to finding out, hopefully will be known sooner rather than later.

olditmeybioman   ·  June 1, 2006 4:53 PM

I would like to say to Tall Cotton - God forbid you ever get this disease. You are good at judging things for which you know nothing about; let's see how good you are at handing this nightmare without support. And if you were to get it which the chances are now very good, you will be coming to us for help and you know what? We will be there for you so please remember our site as you criticize. You never know when you might need help and someone to talk you through the painful nights. We forgive and never judge.

Morgie   ·  June 1, 2006 9:11 PM

Hello Morgie,

I won't get it, and you don't have it. You may have some other disease or bad skin condition, but you don't Morgellons.

Tall Cotton

Tall Cotton   ·  June 2, 2006 4:14 AM

Tall Cotton,
My heart hurts for your closed mind. Please read what you wrote.
No one knows what Morgellons is so how can you say no one has it.
You need to pray big time that CDC finds out fast.
I watched my child suffer for 6 months, unable to move, stuck in a bed with a horror disease.
For you or anyone to say this is DOP is a slap in his face. If you were in front of me right now i'd have a hard time restraining my anger.
You sound very young and I know my beautiful son would tell me, mom he/she's not worth it.
You just remember this pal.
If this horror disease ever hits you, deep in the night when you can't sleep because of the itching, stinging, crawling feeling all over your skin.
And in the day light when you can no longer work because of sever pain, go out in public because you look like a monster or hold someone you love in your arms for fear that you'll infect them.
Just remember today pal when you slapped my 23 year old son in the face that I can't forgive you.
It's not that you find this disease to unreal to believe, had I heard of it before we got it, I'd find it very hard to believe.
That's not enough for you. You are looking for ways to be ugly and unkind to your fellow man.
My son was only 23. He wanted so bad to live, love, work, play. HE'S DEAD, did that make your day?

Joshua's mom, Sue L   ·  June 9, 2006 7:04 PM

Sue L,

Note the methamphetamines, mental state, consider the source for what it blatantly is.

Morgellon's smacks suspiciously of something conjured utilizing vacuum chamber, petri dish, for mundane profit (without foresight) or otherwise.

My condolences.

oldtimeybioman   ·  June 10, 2006 2:34 AM

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