Originally published May 7 2008
Morgellons: Biotechnology Gone Awry or Simple Psychosis?
by Mel Possehl
(NaturalNews) There's a feeling of bugs crawling under your skin, day and night; continuously haunting you. Sharp stings from what feels like bees constantly torment you, keeping you awake for days on end. Intense burning and itching from these unseen forces invade your life, robbing you of your everyday activities, causing fear and agony as the time wears on, with no end in sight. To top it all off, to your horror you discover that strange red, blue, black, white, and translucent fibers are literally coming out of your pores, accompanied by strange black specks. Then the fatigue and joint pain begin.
Sound like something out of a science fiction movie? It's not. Everyday thousands of people across the country are experiencing these horrible symptoms. Many times, their family and friends do not believe, and leave them to endure their suffering alone. They are called crazy. They are told they have delusions of parasites, or DOP for short. They are labeled, ridiculed, humiliated, and most of all, scared. They have a condition known as Morgellons Disease.
A distraught mother, Mary Leitao, named Morgellons Disease, also called Morgellons Syndrome or the fiber disease, back in 2002. Her then 2 year old son, Drew, had a rash on his chin that would not go away, and he kept complaining, "Mommy, bugs", and pointing to it. She found dandelion-like tufts in it and, being a biologist, studied them under her microscope. They were nothing like she had ever seen before.
After having been dismissed by multiple pediatricians, allergists, and dermatologists, even labeled as having Munchausen's by proxy, she started her own research. This lead her to discover a 17th century French medical article describing an infliction named morgellons, in which black hairs emerge from the skin of the children inflicted. Although there is nothing to link the two, at least now she had a name for it.
She put up a website, morgellons.org, hoping to get professional help. Instead, she began receiving numerous letters, emails, and phone calls from people with the same symptoms. Realizing the scope of the problem, she started The Morgellon's Research Foundation, a non-profit she runs from the basement of her home. People with symptoms can now go to her site and register as sufferers of the illness. As of this writing, April 4, 2008, there were 12,106 registered affected families.
The Medical Community
In medical circles, the people suffering from this affliction are many times labeled as delusional. The fibers brought in are thought to be just another part of the delusion, called 'matchbox' or 'Ziploc' symptoms, coined for the containers patients use to bring in specimens as 'proof'. Dr. Noah Scheinfeld, an assistant professor of dermatology at Columbia University, stated in a CNN interview that the disease is all in their heads, people are picking at themselves, and they are doing it for various reasons. He further explains that when they have the open sores, they shove the fibers in themselves.(1)
Even searches for Morgellons on the American Academy of Dermatology website as well as the Infectious Diseases Society of America produce no results. Some people believe this collective dismissal is Semmelweis Reflex, a term named for a 19th century physician who was ostracized by his colleagues for believing doctors should wash their hands between patients, thereby reducing the instance of puerperal fever. It is characterized by the dismissing or rejecting out of hand any information, automatically, without thought, inspection, or experiment. Other professionals, however, are not so quick to dismiss.
Randy Wymore is an associate professor of pharmacology and physiology at Oklahoma State University, and is now the Director of the OSU-CHS Center for the Investigation of Morgellons Disease. He put out a formal position statement(2) in June of 2007, stating, among other things, that the condition known as Morgellons is not delusions of parasites, neurotic excoriations, or the DOP-like symptoms that can be found in crystal-meth users or other addicts, nor is it those symptomatic with severe skin problems.
He also states that at this time, they do not know the cause of Morgellons, what the fibers, specks, or other 'shed' material is composed of, nor any effective treatment. He has studied the fibers, and with the help of the Tulsa Police Department's forensic lab, concluded that they do not match any of the 900 or so commercially available textiles in their database. They even tested if it matched any of 85,000 known organic materials by heating it to 700 degrees F, which should have vaporized it, but had no effect.(3) He has a team in place and is hopeful that with thorough research, they will begin to find answers to shed some light on this mystery.
Ahmed Kilani is an infectious diseases microbiologist who runs Clongen Laboratories. He has ran tests on the fibers from victims for such things as leishmaniasis, a disease transmitted by sand flies, as well as protozoal infections and fungal disease, only to come up empty handed. He is now serving on the MRF scientific advisory board.(4)
Not Just the Medical Community Is in Doubt
Delusions are commonly defined as a fixed false belief, and are used in everyday language to describe a belief that is false, fanciful or derived from deception. The psychiatrist and philosopher Karl Jaspers was the first to define the three main criteria for a belief to be considered delusional in his book General Psychopathology. These criteria are:
* certainty (held with absolute conviction)
* incorrigibility (not changeable by compelling counterargument or proof to the contrary)
* impossibility or falsity of content (implausible, bizarre or patently untrue)
Based on these parameters, is it possible that thousands of people, across the country and some in other parts of the world, are all suffering the same delusion? Could this really be just a fake illness, or a mix of illnesses perpetuated by the internet? Some say yes, such as a man only named as 'Michael', who runs the website MorgellonsWatch.com . He contends that the evidence indicates:
1. The fibers are environmental and unrelated to any illness
2. Morgellons is not a distinct disease
3. People who think they have Morgellons "probably have a mixed variety of physical and/or mental illnesses."
There is an active forum at the site as well, some claiming to have the illness and many debunking any news that comes out about it. While there is never anything wrong with an active debate, Dr. Wymore warns in his statement:
"Amateur debunkers carry no weight in academia and have no relevance in the discussion of Morgellons Disease in the scientific community".
He goes even further with an invitation:
"...to any amateur debunker who feels they can compete in the professional scientific arena to submit an abstract to a conference or manuscript to a scientific journal".
He believes that the results would be "laughable" –- though probably not to the debunker.
From what I have found on these sites, there are definitely lively arguments, some that make sense, and others that do not. None has answered the question of how or why so many people could come up with the same symptoms, such as fog-headedness, fatigue, joint pain, itching & burning, and the same odd matching fibers of various colors that fluoresce under light, that doctors have found and extracted from under unbroken skin.
As with any mystery, Morgellons has no shortage of theories. A common theory is governmental experimentation through chem-trails. Others believe it is warfare -- biological weaponry from terrorists. Some even believe it is something in the water, put there for population control. A few people believe it is aliens. The most popular theories, on the other hand, seem to revolve around biotechnology and nanotechnology, which may not be far off.
Take for instance the findings of Vitaly Citovsky, a plant biologist whose lab showed that Agrobacterium, bacteria that utilizes horizontal gene transfers to cause tumors in plants and is a key factor in genetic engineering, could transform organisms by transfer of DNA, including human cells. He was contacted by the MRF to investigate the potential presence of the Agrobacterium in Morgellons patient's biopsies. His control included healthy donor samples as well as those from the patients. Only those with Morgellons tested positive. He put out a statement on his involvement in the research in which he says that these findings do not prove that Agrobacterium causes Morgellons nor that it is in fact, an infectious disease; only that the results indicate the need for further research.
Transgenic crops and horizontal gene transfer have been seriously debated topics with the emergence of more and more genetically engineered food. Dr. Mae-Wan Ho, Director of the Institute of Science in Society, has studied this in depth, and has made frequent representations to the government on the topic. Her concerns are over the spread of transgenic DNA. Due to DNA being present in all environments, and the fact that cells can take up free DNA, it is not just the cross pollination of crops that is worrisome, but the transfer to unrelated species as well.
She also states that "horizontal gene transfer is one of the most serious, if not the most serious hazard of transgenic technology". She has been bringing this to regulator's attention since 1996, when she says there was "already sufficient evidence to suggest that transgenic DNA in GM crops and products can spread by being taken up directly by viruses and bacteria as well as plant and animal cells".(7)
What is a main transfer source for this DNA? Agrobacterium tumefaciens, the same bacteria as those found in the Morgellons patients.
Further disturbing is research that I have found being conducted by the National Textile Center. Their goal is as follows:
"To develop fabrics that contain micro-fabricated bio-environments and biologically activated fibers. These fabrics will have genetically engineered bacteria or mammalian cells incorporated into them, that will enable them to generate and replenish chemical coatings and chemically active components".(8)
What does this mean? They want to make drug-producing bandages, clothing that has genetically engineered bacteria on it that eats away a person's body odor, and even clothing that cleans itself by way of regenerating dust and water repellent.
This is aptly referred to as biologically active fibers and micro-environments. This is not something that is far off in the future either. Their annual report, dated November 2001, states:
"We have genetically engineered bacteria that allow for the non-invasive quantification of bacterial viability and function in fibers and fabrics. We are developing techniques for introducing and culturing these bacteria in select hollow fibers".
Hmm, sounds oddly familiar.
One researcher in particular, Dr. Hildegarde Staninger, has done extensive research into the field of nanotechnology and its relationship to Morgellons. While the body is well equipped to rid itself of toxic materials, she says this is not the case with nano-size foreign bodies, as in the case of Morgellons, saying they "have a mind of their own as it riddles the body with its fibers and continuous self-replication". She further believes that "its environmental impact will be far greater than DDT, PCB's and asbestos have ever been".(9) It is indeed a very frightening outlook.
Whether any of these theories are in fact related or not is yet to be determined. The only thing that is known for sure, at this point, is that people are suffering. Thankfully, due to a major upsurge of complaints and contacts from people in recent years, the CDC has finally decided that this "Unexplained Dermopathy" warrants some investigation, and has contracted Kaiser Permanente in Northern California as a partner to investigate the affliction. They have strict parameters as to who will be eligible to participate in the study, and are putting a time-frame of 12 months or longer on the project.
Hopefully in time they will be able to find answers to the questions plaguing the victims of this horrible disease.
1. "CNN.com - Transcripts - Aired August 19, 2006 - 08:30 ET". CNN. April 4, 2008 (http://transcripts.cnn.com/TRANSCRIPTS/0608/...) .
2,5. Wymore, Randy S. "Morgellon Position Statement". Oklahoma State University Center for health Sciences. April 3, 2008 (http://www.healthsciences.okstate.edu/morgel...) .
3,4. Schulte, Brigid. "Figments of the Imagination?". The Washington Post. April 3, 2008 (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content...)
"Delusions". Wikipedia. April 4, 2008 (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Delusions) .
6. Citovsky, Vitaly. "Clarification from Vitaly Citovsky". Morgellons Hope. April 3, 2008 (http://www.morgellonshope.com/index2.php?opt...) .
7. Ho, Dr. Mae-Wan . "Recent Evidence Confirms Risks of Horizontal Gene Transfer". Institute of Science in Society. April 3, 2008 (http://www.i-sis.org.uk/FSAopenmeeting.php) .
8. "Development of Bio-Active Fabrics - National Textile Center Annual Report: November 2000 ". The National Textile Center. April 3, 2008 (http://www.ntcresearch.org/pdf-rpts/AnRp00/m...) .
9. Staninger, PhD, Hildegarde. "The Staninger Report - Morgellons: A Nano-911 Foreign Invader". Integrative Health Systems, LLC. April 3, 2008.
About the authorMel Possehl is a Holistic Wellness Consultant working towards dual diplomas in Herbalism & Holistic Health, and enjoyed a year long certification course in Aromatherapy.
When she isn't busy finding new ways to incorporate natural products into her family's lives, she enjoys things like reading global warming articles and finding great Western Caribbean cruise deals.
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