Over the past couple of days, the tension between both sides of Morgellons Disease controversy has been rekindled. Why? Joni Mitchell’s hospitalization and her long-term battle with Morgellons Disease have fueled the ongoing debate- is Morgellons Disease real or just in the heads of those suffering? In thinking about writing on this topic, I decided the best approach might be a truce- a kind of safe meeting between the sides of this battle with the chance to consider a couple of pieces of this puzzle found on pubmed.gov.
In 2009, Morgellons Research Foundation published a clinical study meant to create a “…formal characterization of MD from detailed examination of all body systems” ( Harvey et. al. 2009). They created a lengthy list of common systemic symptoms, notably, “All blood pressures were low and all resting pulses were high,” suggesting this condition is physiologic, potentially easily diagnosed, and not created in the heads of self-defined sufferers. Among the study group were high rates of miscarriages and endocrine disorders. The study concludes, “…the consistent abnormal findings in the data above may be used to improve clinical diagnosis and possibly initial treatment in current patients.” In short, Morgellons Disease appears to be systemic and much more than the symptoms of fibers, crawling sensations and skin lesions.
The 2012 study performed by the Kaiser Foundation for the CDC (Pearson et. al. 2012) while concluding “No common underlying medical condition or infectious source was identified, similar to more commonly recognized conditions such as delusional infestation,“ suggests sufferers are dealing with a condition to be placed in mental illness . Some highlights include; “Over 75% of our cases reported onset of their symptoms during or after 2002, but the epidemiologic importance of this is unclear as it also corresponds to the time when Internet postings related to this condition began to surface” (suggests MD is internet meme), “A substantial proportion (40%) of biopsied lesions had histopathologic features compatible with the sequelae of chronic rubbing or excoriation” (suggests lesions are self-created), and “The fibers and materials collected from case-patients' skin were largely consistent with skin fragments or materials such as cotton and were either entrapped in purulent crust or scabs, suggesting the materials were from environmental sources (e.g., clothing) or possibly artifacts introduced at the time of specimen collection and processing” (suggests fibers are meaningless). Many of those in the Morgellons Disease community had hoped for light and found themselves in an even darker place.
Currently, a search of “Morgellons Disease” on pubmed.gov lists fifty articles (accessed 4/3/2015). Half of these peer-reviewed articles present Morgellons Disease as a delusional condition (the majority of these are found in dermatology related periodicals), seven discuss MD as real, and the remainder appear as inconclusive. I invite readers to further explore what appears to be opposite conclusions in peer-reviewed medical research.
My thoughts and prayers go out to Joni Mitchell and all of those still suffering.
Harvey, William T et al. “Morgellons Disease, Illuminating an Undefined Illness: A Case Series.” Journal of Medical Case Reports 3 (2009): 8243. PMC. Web. 3 Apr. 2015.
Pearson, Michele L. et al. “Clinical, Epidemiologic, Histopathologic and Molecular Features of an Unexplained Dermopathy.” Ed. Christophe Egles. PLoS ONE 7.1 (2012): e29908. PMC. Web. 3 Apr. 2015.