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Morgellons disease, illuminating an undefined illness: a case series
William T Harvey*, Robert C Bransfield, Dana E Mercer, Andrew J Wright, Rebecca M Ricchi and Mary M Leita
Received: 28 November 2008 Accepted: 17 March 2009 Published: 1 July 2009
Journal of Medical Case Reports 2009, 3:8243 doi: 10.4076/1752-1947-3-8243
This article is available from: http://jmedicalcasereports.com/jmedicalcasereports/article/view/8243
© 2009 Harvey et al; licensee Cases Network Ltd. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0),
which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
Introduction: This review of 25 consecutive patients with Morgellons disease (MD) was undertaken for two primary and extremely fundamental reasons. For semantic accuracy, there is only one “proven” MD patient: the child first given that label. The remainder of inclusive individuals adopted the label based on related descriptions from 1544 through 1884, an internet description quoted from Sir Thomas Browne (1674), or was given the label by practitioners using similar sources. Until now, there has been no formal characterization of MD from detailed examination of all body systems. Our second purpose was to differentiate MD from Delusions of Parasitosis (DP), another “informal” label that fit most of our MD patients. How we defined and how we treated these patients depended literally on factual data that would determine outcome. How they were labeled in one sense was irrelevant, except for the confusing conflict rampant in the medical community, possibly significantly skewing treatment outcomes.
Case presentation: Clinical information was collected from 25 of 30 consecutive self-defined patients with Morgellons disease consisting of laboratory data, medical history and physical examination findings. Abnormalities were quantified and grouped by system, then compared and summarized, but the numbers were too small for more complex mathematical analysis. The quantification of physical and laboratory abnormalities allowed at least the creation of a practical clinical boundary, separating probable Morgellons from non-Morgellons patients. All the 25 patients studied meet the most commonly used DP definitions. Conclusions: These data suggest Morgellons disease can be characterized as a physical human illness with an often-related delusional component in adults. All medical histories support that behavioral aberrancies onset only after physical symptoms. The identified abnormalities include both immune deficiency and chronic inflammatory markers that correlate strongly with immune cytokine excess. The review of 251 current NLM DP references leads us to the possibility that Morgellons disease and DP are grossly truncated labels of the same illness but with the reversal of the cause-effect order. Further, the patients’ data suggest that both illnesses have an infectious origin.
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