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Op-Ed: Morgellons- Delusion, fungus, or truly lousy epidemiology?

By Paul Wallis     Mar 15, 2009 in Health
Morgellons Disease is “controversial”, according to the Mayo Clinic. The Mayo, however, doesn’t consider the condition trivial. The condition is very debilitating. Apparently also severely debilitated is the sleeping science of epidemiology.
Morgellons was the topic of a recent story on DJ by Adriana Stuijt and an earlier piece by Samantha A Torrence.
This is the sort of topic that gets my interest, so I decided to do some digging.
There’s no known cause for Morgellons, but there are literally thousands of theories. Too many, in fact, for much credibility. Theories so far range from a hoax, aliens, to neurological disorders, to nano tech.
This is science? This is medicine? This is the 21st century?
As science, it’s pitiful. As epidemiology, it’s inexcusable.
The known facts are that the disease is characterised by "fibres" forming in the skin, severe discomfort, short term memory loss, pain, fatigue, gastrointestinal disorders, and behavioral changes. Changes in skin color, and other wonderful personal fun things are also noted.
Obviously, it can't be too serious. Nothing to disturb the rich sewer of greed-based medical scientific stagnation which we've all come to appreciate so much over the last few decades.
The Mayo has some interesting comments in its piece on Morgellons Disease which define the state of the “research” so far:
Beyond anecdotal reports, researchers know little about Morgellons disease. The Morgellons Research Foundation reports no known causes of Morgellons disease and no successful treatment for the condition. Whether Morgellons disease is contagious remains a mystery.
So there are thousands of cases, and almost nobody has bothered to get off their backsides and go looking for an actual cause. Which means all the theories to date are so much unsubstantiated drivel.
The Morgellons Research Foundation, fortunately, has been working on somewhat less anecdotal, and noticeably less apathetic, information than the rest of the epidemiological world. In its report dated June 2008, it refers to common organisms known to cause disease in humans, and makes some qualified associations with Morgellons Disease.
One of the more plausible associations is with parasitic fungi. Fungal infections can be devastating, as anyone who’s ever had Thrush would know. The fungus involved, Candida Albicans, is perfectly capable of sporulation in living tissue. Fungi, in fact, have survived every major extinction event in Earth’s history, and can exist in just about any environment.
I’m a horticulturalist by qualification, and I can tell you, if there’s a problem with anything, top of the list of usual suspects are fungi, each and every time.
They also produce very hard tissues, themselves. The Razor Strop fungus is so called because it’s so tough you can literally sharpen razors on it. Fungi are at least theoretically capable of producing “keratin like fibres”.
The pathology of Morgellons Disease, growths of fibres appearing in various locations, is also consistent with growths from spores in close proximity, like Candida Albicans. Dryness and loss of moisture would be consistent with fungal activity. Fungi must have water.
Lack of infections around lesions may also indicate active fungi. That’s not proven, or even suggested, by research at this stage, but it’s a working theory for that fact. Many fungi are bacteriophages, and the human body has a lot of very nasty opportunists like Staph, waiting for open lesions. Lack of infection may mean that even Staph can’t deal with Morgellons pathogens. In which case, modified versions of these things might be cures for Golden Staph.
The rest of the report is a lot less heart warming, in terms of where researchers have found Morgellons-like particles. Domestic hot water services, for one. I don’t know if you spend much time thinking about multicolored particles in your hot water services, but that’s where these things are showing up.
The Morgellons Research Foundation found no less than six types of particle in the hot water tanks shower and kitchens of sufferers, including highly Morgellon-suggestive ribbons, colored clear, blue, red, green and black. These particle types are directly related to particles from Morgellons sufferers.
So, a disease, or a class of related pathogens, producing common effects?
Also interesting was the fact cited in the report that replacing the water tanks resulted in marked improvement in the health of the sufferers.
This is an image of Morgellons:
This is an image of a parasitic fungus:
As you can see, fibres are natural offshoots of fungi, even in this non related species.
This is another view of a parasitic fungus, under an electron microscope.
Less tangled than Morgellons, but you see the fibre structure.
Many fungi are amorphous, too, not as neatly structured as these examples, but the fibres are used to break down tissues, in all species. A tough fungus, living in human tissue, wouldn’t be able to adopt a simple morphology.
The itching and crawling sensations of Morgellons are also indicative of active fungal infection. Even athlete’s foot, another nasty fungus, produces similar sensations. The itching also indicates some immune response, and there should be antigens of some sort around the tissue. Another very basic research methodology left flapping in the wind, no doubt.
Epidemiology: Science or Spectator?
We can assume that despite the apparent lack of rational responses from various “authorities”, the research by the Morgellons Research Foundation is getting somewhere.
Infinitely less amusing is the obvious total failure of anything resembling a systemic response to what may well be a serious threat to human health. Widespread fungal diseases include Thrush, Chlamdyia, and a range of severe dermatological conditions. Fungi ain’t funny, medically.
An unknown pathology, affecting tens of thousands of people, surely deserves more than a diagnosis of “mental illness” in people with lesions all over them. Only shingles and some rashes are known to be caused by neurological dysfunction. Nothing else is known to do that.
An unknown disease causing actual wounds surely deserves the semantic courtesy of being considered a disease, not a delusion.
The public deserves the courtesy of a science which isn’t sitting on its butt. If you wanted a pandemic which could make the Influenza Epidemic look like a baby shower, a fungus would be one of the best candidates.
This disease, whatever it is, is spreading rapidly enough to warrant proper attention.
Epidemiology isn’t supposed to be a raffle, or a spectator sport. It’s supposed to be a science.
This definitely isn't a medical recommendation, because of the seriousness of the condition, but it is an observation:
I've found serious fungal infections react to anti tinea creams. Some react to oxygen bleaches. They're anerobic, and they hate oxygen. Perhaps the Morgellons Research Foundation would like to check out reactions?
Because it looks like the rest of epidemiology won't be trying too hard to find an actual treatment, either.
It's definitely a matter of opinion who's delusive, when actual lesions are considered psychological, not physical.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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