History of Morgellons disease: from delusion to definition (Harsh Hairs in the Backs of Children)
History of Morgellons disease: from delusion to definition
Marianne J Middelveen,1 Melissa C Fesler,2 and Raphael B Strickercorresponding author2
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Morgellons disease (MD) is a skin condition characterized by the presence of multicolored filaments that lie under, are embedded in, or project from skin. Although the condition may have a longer history, disease matching the above description was first reported in the US in 2002. Since that time, the condition that we know as MD has become a polemic topic. Because individuals afflicted with the disease may have crawling or stinging sensations and sometimes believe they have an insect or parasite infestation, most medical practitioners consider MD a purely delusional disorder. Clinical studies supporting the hypothesis that MD is exclusively delusional in origin have considerable methodological flaws and often neglect the fact that mental disorders can result from underlying somatic illness. In contrast, rigorous experimental investigations show that this skin affliction results from a physiological response to the presence of an infectious agent. Recent studies from that point of view show an association between MD and spirochetal infection in humans, cattle, and dogs. These investigations have determined that the cutaneous filaments are not implanted textile fibers, but are composed of the cellular proteins keratin and collagen and result from overproduction of these filaments in response to spirochetal infection. Further studies of the genetics, pathogenesis, and treatment of MD are warranted.
Keywords: Morgellons disease, dermopathy, Lyme disease, Borrelia burgdorferi, spirochetes
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Morgellons disease (MD) is a disfiguring and perplexing skin condition associated with spirochetal infection and tick-borne illness.1–7 This poorly understood condition has a worldwide distribution, with estimated self-reported cases numbering over 14,000 in 2009.5 Since that time, there has been an increasing number of individuals reported to be afflicted with this disorder (C Casey, Charles E Holman Morgellons Disease Foundation, personal communication, 2017). The distinguishing diagnostic feature of MD is spontaneously appearing ulcerative skin lesions that contain unusual filaments lying under, embedded in, or projecting from the skin. The characteristic filaments are microscopic, visually resembling textile fibers, and are white, black, or a more vibrant color, such as red or blue.1–7 In addition to fiber production, some patients may experience formication, described as stinging, biting, creeping and crawling sensations. The symptoms of MD are not limited to the skin. MD patients experience a variety of systemic manifestations, such as fatigue, joint pain, cardiac complications, cognitive difficulties, and neuropathy, all symptoms that are commonly reported by Lyme disease (LD) patients.1–7
The name “Morgellons” (pronounced with either a hard or soft “g”) comes from a letter written in 1674 by Sir Thomas Browne, an English physician. The letter contains a brief description of a skin disease in French children:
Hairs which have most amused me have not been in the face or head, but on the back, and not in men but children, as I long ago observed in that endemial distemper of little children in Languedock, called the Morgellons, wherein they critically break out with harsh hairs on their backs, which takes off the unquiet symptoms of the disease, and delivers them from coughs and convulsions.8
Browne’s description of “the Morgellons” and other historical accounts of similar maladies date from 1544–1884 and were found in Browne’s library in 1935 by Kellett, who then summarized and discussed them.8
More at this link: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5811176/