For one New Jersey nurse, the sores started as deep, scabby lesions all over her arms, hands, knees and back. The wounds took years to heal, she said, and then she found tiny granules, “like string,” inside them.
But the woman, who shied away from giving her name, said doctor after doctor in Manhattan said, “You’re picking at yourself” — which she adamantly denies.
The persistent disbelief from the medical community began to tear at her nerves. “You think you have bugs and it drives you out of your mind,” said the woman, age 59.
Finally, five years and a few Internet searches later, she determined she has Morgellons, a mysterious and controversial disease where patients say fibers protrude from lesions covering the skin. Over 13,000 people in the U.S. have the disease, according to the Morgellons Research Foundation, based in upstate New York. Even folk singer Joni Mitchell has said she suffers from it.
The burning question is: Does it exist?
Researchers at the Mayo Clinic say no. Just last week, researchers there published a report in the Archives of Dermatology concluding that nearly all of the 108 patients they observed who complained of Morgellons had no medical problems, but instead a “delusional infestation.”
One Red Bank, N.J.-based psychiatrist, however, disagrees. Dr. Robert Bransfield told Metro he’s seen about 30 Morgellons patients, and something similar is happening to all of them. He’s just unsure whether the cause is psychological, biological or both.
Bransfield said several patients came to him from New York City with symptoms described as “crawling, biting — a sensation as though something is under the skin.”
A closer look: No evidence
NEW YORK. Vitaly Citovsky at the State University of New York at Stony Brook’s department of biochemistry and cell biology said he studied Morgellons in 2008 but could not define it as a real infectious disease, because he did not find any “infectious agent or any other biological foreign material in patients.”
In March, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that they had compiled data about Morgellons patients and plan to publish a final report in a scientific journal.