Ever since its discovery in 2001, Morgellons has been a genuine medical mystery. In fact, some medical professionals still believe it wasn’t discovered at all, and that it’s an entirely fabricated disease, or at least a mental disorder masquerading as a genuine physical condition. But for the hundreds of thousands of Morgellons sufferers out there, this is simply not good enough. For them, the disease is very, very real, with extremely debilitating physical effects, as well as mental ones. Since 2001, more and more Morgellons patients have emerged, talking to online communities in the absence of any form of official legitimization. Although the true cause, and to a certain extent, treatment of Morgellons remains a mystery, recent research is beginning to suggest that it’s a coinfection of chronic Lyme disease.
If that does turn out to be the case, we have a much better chance of understanding and ultimately curing Morgellons. The downside for sufferers is that chronic Lyme is another controversial topic in the healthcare field. Many professional doctors are not even convinced of its existence, let alone well-versed in how to treat it. Presenting Morgellons as a co-infection will undoubtedly confirm some of the skeptics’ views that it doesn’t actually exist, and that it’s being shoved under the umbrella of the dubious chronic Lyme. While sufferers of both disorders are well aware that this is not the case, and many doctors across the country are genuinely keen to help patients get to the root cause of their Morgellons, it’s something that sufferers need to be aware of.
So how exactly did Morgellons emerge, and why is it so controversial? It was discovered in 2001 by Mary Leitao, whose young son complained consistently of ‘bugs’ and presented with lesions on his body. After doctors could find nothing wrong with the boy, they turned their attention to Leitao herself, who was suspected of suffering from Munchausen by proxy, a mental disorder in which the patient imagines someone close to them has an affliction they do not. Morgellons’ controversial beginnings would extend into a controversial life. Faced with derision from doctors, Leitao named the disease herself after a phrase from an old medical journal, and took her cause online. Much to her surprise, her inbox started to flood with emails from sufferers all over the world, who described suffering from the same symptoms as her son.
The symptoms are almost the most bizarre part of the Morgellons saga. For a disease that’s debated to even exist in the first place, you’d expect the symptoms to be vague, invisible and light. Instead, they are extremely specific, very visible and chronically debilitating. The lesions first discovered by Leitao are a near-consistent symptom, as is the constant feeling of bugs on or under the skin. But by far the strangest are the fibers which emerge from the lesions; they are colored white, red, black and blue, and their origin is unknown. Skeptics have explained away the fibers by claiming they’re pieces of fabric that become stuck to the numerous lesions (which are themselves explained away by over-scratching the itching sensation), but for the thousands of sufferers who witness these disturbing growths emerge out of their sores, this is simply not good enough as an explanation.
For many years, these fibers and filaments have been a mystery to doctors and patients alike. However, recent research has linked Morgellons with Lyme, suggesting that the fibers are the proteins keratin and collagen, which are naturally produced by the body, and are traditionally utilized to construct our hair and nails. What causes these proteins to go haywire is unknown, but it probably has something to do with an underlying Lyme infection, as nearly all Morgellons patients that have been tested have been found to be carrying various forms of Borrelia spirochetes, which is the exact bacteria that causes Lyme.
One does not follow the other, however; most Lyme sufferers never develop Morgellons. Instead, it seems to be a dangerous mutation of co-infection that only affects some Lyme patients, but causes untold damage to their physical and mental wellbeing when it strikes. In fact, Morgellons takes a much sharper mental and physical toll on patients, as it is a disturbing, visual disorder which expands and worsens rapidly. With Morgellons emerging more and more into the public eye, and such prominent public figures as Joni Mitchell coming forward as sufferers, it’s only a matter of time before the disease is taken as seriously as it deserves to be within the medical community. Add to that the recent research and tests which have successfully linked Morgellons and Lyme as well as the continued commitment of grassroots organizations like the Charles E. Holman Foundation, who are dedicated to finding a cause and cure, and the future looks bright for the thousands of Morgellons patients currently battling the disease.