The only thing worse than a disease wherein mysterious microscopic fibers grow out of your arms and legs and cause unbearable itching is the creeping sensation of reading about one of those diseases. Which sort of explains, I think, why the medical community has long dismissed Morgellons disease as a mental illness. Morgellons sufferers get crazy rashes from which they believe they see fibers growing; the doctors see nothing, and the patients get crazier. They report coughing up bugs. They become dependent on cocaine to stay awake. Oh yeah, and almost all sufferers are women, which might be one of the reasons so many doctors have long passed it off as one big hysterical hallucination. But! One doctor finally decided to give it a look. "Send me your fibers!" he posted on a Morgellons website. And in they came. Box after box of identical fibers, all magenta and cobalt blue. He tested them against all 900 materials listed in an American textile database — nothing. He heated them to 700 degrees to determine their chemical makeup — nothing. He held a flourescent light over them. They glowed.
This story is, like, my worst nightmare, as someone who has consistently had all sorts of fun dreams such as the one where I wake up with tiny sets of teeth embedded in my skin...Of course, it's hard to say what's worse: tiny sets of teeth embedded in your skin? Or the constant, ever-present sensation that they are sprouting?
But Morgellon's is actually a real thing caused by agrobacteria, which is a sort of bacteria that has long caused tumors in trees. Now agrobacteria have figured out how to implant their DNA in human cells. Maybe. Well, no one is sure, because no one has money to study the DNA of this shit. Mutant worms may be involved. It's sort of like the new bipolar disorder, combined with the new Lyme disease?
In the meantime, most doctors maintain it's all bullshit.
The writer of the story is giving an online chat on the Washington Post website in two hours, so maybe check in over there and report back. And now, excuse me while I spend the next twenty minutes rabidly scratching my scalp.
Figments of the Imagination? [Washington Post]
Related: New Study of the Bizarre Disease Where Wires Grow Out Of Your Skin [io9]