Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Is Morgellons and Old or New Disease?

By Jon Christian RyterJanuary 23, 2008

A mysterious parasitic disease, named Morgellons Disease by biologist Mary Leitao of McMurray, Pennsylvania in 2002 because doctors could not identify it, is now taking its toll on an estimated 7,000 American citizens. And no one has an answer to [a] what it is, [b] what triggers the condition, or [c] how to kill the unidentified parasite that indiscriminately attacks men, women and children. Morgellons, which some physicians still insist is an imaginary disease caused by too much Internet access and too much time on someone's hands, is not only real, there is no cure, nor is there a consistent protocol to treat it. Nor does it appear that there is a consistent manner in which its victims contract the disease. Chemtrailers believe Morgellons Disease is the result of government experimentation, and that its victims contract it through chemtrail debris. Interesting theory. Wrong conclusion. Morgellons is a parasitic infection. The parasite appears to be a filarial nematode that acts like a silkworm, leaving behind a trail of bizarre fibers. If the condition was caused by inhaling either chemical or biological agents or having them land on the victim and penetrate their skin, the chemical or biological agents would still be inorganic on, or in, the human body. In addition, hundreds of thousands of people have been exposed to chemtrails. Why would only 7,000 or so people in the United States have contracted this disease? Because it's not related to chemtrails. Of course, there may be thousands more who are suffering with this parasitic disease who are being treated by their dermatologists for eczema, cellulitis, scabies, or some other skin disorder as they complain that it feels like they have worms under their skin. Modern Morgellons has been around for three-quarters of a century. A British physician, Dr. C.E. Kellott first identified it in 1935. He used the provencial term, masclous (little flies), to describe it. Dr. Jeffrey Meffert, MD, Associate Professor of Dermatology at the University of Texas has attempted to debunk Morgellons as an nonexistent disease. He agrees that the patients have something, but it is more likely scabies or some form of eczema which be believes may be prurigo nodularis (a skin disease characterized by itchy pea-sized nodules which usually appear on the arms and/or legs). However, prurigo nodularis may look like Morgellons in its initial stage, but as it progresses, prurigo nodularis does not develop the fiber strands which are prevalent with Morgellons Disease. It was summer 2001. It was evening. About 9 p.m in the middle class home on a wooded, dead-end street in the McMurray area of Peters, Pennsylvania. Mary Leitao's husband was sleeping. He came home from work, tired. Hard day. Leitao's two oldest children had also gone to bed. Leitao's two-year old, Drew, was sick. He had an irritated spot under his bottom lip—which he told his mother felt like it was full of bugs. Mary Leitao had taken Drew to several Pittsburgh-area dermatologists and pediatricians. None could identify what Drew had, other than to call it scabies or eczema. They prescribed various ointments and creams. None of them worked. On this night, she bathed her son and was applying a cream ointment that seemed to be working well at stopping the itching. Drew lay snuggling in his mother's lap, lulled by the bath; dry and warm. Leitao began rubbing the ointment on her son in gentle, circular motions, something unusual happened. A fiber-like substance came from Drew's skin. She collected a sample of the fibers and got her son's $8 Radio Shack microscope and looked at the fibers. Since that night, she's examined those strands—and others—under various microscopes at the University of Massachusetts and, later, as a medical researcher at a Boston hospital. The fibers now obsess her completely because what she sees in people with Morgellon Disease—a name she coined based on her research of the research done by Sir Thomas Browne of a medical malady he discovered in 1690—are at odds with the American medical community which says Morgellons does not exist. But if you ask former Oakland Athletic relief pitcher Billy Koch or his wife Brandi, they will assure you it exists. When Morgellons struck Koch, he was transferred from the Toronto Blue Jays to Oakland, and from Oakland to Chicago; and finally, from Chicago back to Toronto. He developed the mysterious illness—Morgellons Disease—in 2004. So did his wife Brandi and their three children. The mysterious illness? According to Brandi Koch, it consisted of strings and black specks coming out of their skin. "[Billy] freaked out," she said. "He wanted to ignore it. I wanted to, too. But when it comes to your kids, you gotta stop ignoring it." In two years Koch was out of baseball. The fans couldn't understand the illness, because his body didn't twitch and he showed no signs that he was sick when he pitched. Except, he stopped winning games. And the teams that owned his contract wanted to dump him. When it first struck Brandi Koch, she said she began to be increasingly forgetful and detached. Her doctor diagnosed her as having Lymes Disease, "Then," she said, "the horror really started. I noticed there was some kind of matter coming out of my skin, not just where I had sores." Prior to the illness, she worked regularly and competed in 10K runs. Then her legs and arms began to swell, and, for no reason, she got lesions on her back. Doctors decided she had an autoimmune disease, perhaps arthritis. Then they decided it was probably scleroderma. Doctors had no idea what was wrong, and chose to ignore the fibers which she insisted were coming out of her skin. The doctors decided the threadlike substance was fibers from the clothing she wore, and refused to associate it with her illness. In 2006, a young man in Texas afflicted with Morgellons Disease committed suicide because his doctors would not believe there were things growing out of his skin. "Parasitosis is a classic form of shared delusion," Dr. Mary Seeman, an emeritus professor of psychiatry at the University of Toronto said. "Skin disease is [a] perfect [catalyst] for it. A person gets a rash or something, then the disease spreads through any shared space in which there is close contact." One woman convinced her husband that neighbors were shooting at her with lasers. Another convinced her sister that they were both being attacked by bugs. "When a person has something bothering him these days," Seeman said, "they get online [where they] get reinforcement [of their] ideas." And, of course, the conspiracy is born. Mary Leitao, who in Seeman's view would likely be one of the ringleaders of the fiber conspiracy, created the Morgellons Research Foundation website in her home. But Drew Leitao, like most of those who have been—and still are—misdiagnosed, still sees doctors who still fail to believe that the fibers are not related to the illness, which is still diagnosed as eczema. When Sue Laws of Gaithersburg, Maryland first experienced Morgellons, it felt like bees stinging her back. The stinging sensation was so severe she screamed for her husband. When he checked her back, there was nothing there. She didn't believe him. To prove it, he stuck strapping tape on her back and ripped it off to prove it was nothing. The tape was covered with little red fibers. Only, Laws was not wearing any red clothing. Over the next few months, the itching got worse. And, worse yet, it felt like there were bugs crawling under her skin. Her doctor could not find anything wrong. The Laws, believing there was some type of insect infestation tore up all the carpeting in their house and sanded the floors. Then, suspecting it might be some type of mold, they stripped all the wallpaper and painted the walls. Her condition worsened. Every morning she found black specks on her sheets, and where the specks were on her body, there were droplets of blood. Like the Kochs', her joints began to ache. But, in her case, her hair began to fall out and, for no reason, her teeth began to rot. Then one morning as she looked in the mirror, a pink worm came out of one of her eyeballs. Sue Laws was convinced she was going to die a very horrible death, It was at that time that she found Mary Leitao's website. The things Laws was experiencing were the list of symptoms for Morgellons. They included the crawling, biting and stinging sensation she had experienced, plus the joint pain, the black specs, the threadlike hairs, the blood droplets, and everything else she had experienced except the pink worm and a springtail fly she coughed up. New Yorker Christina Doe (last name omitted) decided to "winter" in a rented condo in Florida in 2004. Within a month or so she began to wonder if the home might have a flea infestation. Christina was experiencing what felt like bug bites, and she had a constant, nagging itch. Her Florida friends thought she might have noseeums (a microscopic mite), or chiggers or some other form of mites; and gave her the remedies for all of them. Because the house she rented had a dog and several stray cats that hang around like the place was home, Christina set off bug bombs to kill what she believed was a flea population—eight times. When she returned to New York, she passed the infliction on to her sister, two daughters and a granddaughter. Like Mary Leitao, her son, the Koches, and Sue Laws, Christina experienced all of the symptoms of Morgellons. The doctor gave her lotions for the itching and the constant stinging sensation. While her sister and daughter—her blood relatives—contracted the disease from her, her daughter's husband and grandson did not. After a year-and-a-half. Christina discovered Mary Leitao's Morgellons Research Foundation website and realized what she had. But, like every other victim of Morgellons still has the problem. Carol Doe, also a New Yorker (and also an alias), managed employee communications for a Fortune 100 company until she got Morgellons. Where she used to spend hours each week negotiating multi-million dollar contracts, she now has trouble writing a simple statement—which could take a whole day or longer to complete. Now she has trouble getting out of bed before noon. She no longer drives—and no longer invites friends into their home—and no longer allows her husband to share their marital bed, fearful that she will pass her horrible disease on to him or onto family and friends. In 2006 a doctor diagnosed her with what he said was a Lyme-related called Morgellons Disease. Pam Winkler of Bel Air, Maryland was a content suburban housewife. She had two beautiful children and a bright future until she contracted this strange new disease that some people called the 'fiber disease." When Morgellons struck, the doctors told her it was her imagination. Because everyone insisted it was in her mind, Winkler ultimately ended up in the psychiatric ward against her will—and also ended up on antipsychotic medication against her will. In the end, her husband divorced her and she lost custody of her children. Seeking relief from the pain and constant itching, she sampled cocaine and found it offered relief. Today she in confined in a mental hospital in North Carolina. Her body is covered with lesions from the disease and, according to Winkler, she blows black fibers and specks from her nose. The doctors at the hospital believe the lesions are self-inflicted. While the medical community is skeptical that Morgellons is a real medical problem, thousands of those afflicted with the disease have flooded Congress with letters, three of the Presidential candidates—Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and John McCain pressured the Centers for Disease Control to investigate the disease. As a result of that pressure, the CDC agreed, on Jan. 17, 2008, to dedicate a million dollars per year for two years for an epidemiological study on what the CDC termed "an unexplained dermopathy which, they said, was now affecting about 2,000 people per year. While the Foundation claims 7,000 people have registered with the Morgellons Research Foundation, the CDC noted that their investigation has established that about 11,000 families in the United States and around the world are afflicted with this strange, undefined disease.