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No Answers from Federal Study of Morgellons
Dozens of people in California a couple of years ago were calling government doctors 20 times per day talking about the feeling of bugs crawling on their bodies, having oozing sores and then getting fibers sprouting from the skin. Dianne Feinstein, a California state senator, called for a scientific study of the problem. The study began in 2008 of the problem called Morgellons.
The study, despite costing $600,000, found that the problem exists only in the minds of the patients.
“We found no infectious cause,” said Mark Eberhard, a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention official who was part of the 15-member study team.
The symptoms described by Morgellon sufferers include erupting sores, fatigue, crawling sensations on the skin and mysterious red, blue or black fibers sprouting from the skin. Some patients claim they have suffered for decades but the syndrome was not named until 2002.
In May, the Mayo Clinic published a study of 108 Morgellons patients, with the study saying none of those patients suffered from unusual physical ailments. The Mayo Clinic study also said that the sores on their skin were caused mainly because of their own picking and scratching.
The CDC study included 3 million people living in 13 counties within Northern California, which was chosen because the majority of the people in the area had health insurance through Kaiser Permanente of Northern California. The majority of the anecdotal reports came from that area too.
Hundreds of people were tested using blood and urine tests and skin biopsies for various infectious diseases that included fungus and bacteria. None of the results were able to explain the cases. There was no visible sign of an environmental cause either, even though investigators did not go to each patient’s house.
The one thing that stood out incredibly was the fact that the majority of the patients had more depression than the general public and more of them were also more obsessive about physical sicknesses than the general public.
“The absence of evidence is not evidence of absence,” said Felicia Goldstein, an Emory University neurology professor and study co-author.
Randy Wymore, a pharmacologist from Oklahoma State University, was the most recognized scientist to work on the project and said that Morgellons is not a psychiatric disorder.
“There is always the question: How many of the study participants actually have Morgellons Disease?” he said.
There is no additional study planned by the CDC. The expertise of the agency is in infectious diseases and environmental health problems and the researchers on the project could not find any evidence of that.
“We’re not mental health experts,” one CDC spokeswoman said.