Although it only came to prominence in the past decade or so- and was only properly named (by a housewife) in 2002- Morgellons disease, or simply Morgellons, has confounded doctors, patients and researchers for some time.
In fact, people have reported the strange set of symptoms associated with Morgellons for at least several centuries. The disease is basically marked by an insinuation that fibers or parasites are crawling on or under the skin, creating lesions, discomfort, stinging and burning sensations, and frustration that everyone who you tell about the disease thinks you are crazy.
The back and forth over whether Morgellons was actually a disease or a form of a well-known psychological condition known as delusional parasitosis or delusions of parasitosis is at the heart of researching the condition- and in fact, basically defines whether Morgellons is likely to exist in its own right or not. To wit- on one side, you have doctors who say “this is not a skin condition, it is a psychological disorder.” And then you have patients that are like, “I’m not crazy, things are crawling all over me! Can’t you see them?” So it is those patients that have been pushing for more research into the phenomenon of Morgellons.
The Centers for Disease Control kindly began researching the condition to determine whether it is the former or the latter, isolating about 100 patients out of hundreds of thousands in North Carolina. The 115 patients- whether self-identifying as having Morgellons or not- reported symptoms consistent with the illness. The patients consented to extensive testing over the course of several days, in which doctors took samples from skin and blood and urine and searched for a single common biological reason- like a fungus, or a bacterial cause for Morgellons.
Researchers weren’t able to isolate anything, and say the disease is not infectious. Likely, the CDC says, Morgellons is a psychiatric condition. But study author Mark Eberhard, the CDC’s director of the division of parasitic diseases and malaria, humored Morgellons patients when commenting on the study.
“We believe that these people have something and their quality of life [has] in some instances been very seriously impacted… We’re not saying this is made up. There could be a constellation of factors.”
Researchers found that the disease seemed to manifest largely in middle-aged white women, and a history of drug use was a common thread.