Mysterious Magenta Fibers Crawling Out Of Your Skin? You're Not Alone!

Illustration for article titled Mysterious Magenta Fibers Crawling Out Of Your Skin? You're Not Alone!

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]



Ok, Moe, time for me to take issue with you.

I read the whole article this weekend over delicious Korean food (OT: If you live in the DC area and you haven't been to Yechon in Annandale, VA, GO NOW. It's open 24 hours. Seriously. 100% authentic, delicious Korean food, made and served by Koreans, 24 hours a day. HEAVEN.), and I think you're being 1. a little sexist and 2. a little quick to judge.

Morgellons has been reported by only a few hundered thousand people. Of those people, about 50% have been *confirmed* diagnoses of delusions of parasitosis; like, they have brought in the fibers that supposedly came into their skin and doctors have confirmed they are identifiable, environmental fibers. So part of the problem with researching this disease is that the website(s) devoted to it make people who are already hypochondriacs more inclined to think something like lint picked up from their pajamas are fibers growing through their skin. The same way people who are sore a lot can convince themselves they have fibromyalgia, people who have a lot of static cling can convince themselves they have Morgellons. The more people who do this, the harder it is to get the kind of credibility to get a decent government grant.

Also: Not ALL of the suffers of Morgellons are women, and there is a healthy enough percentage of men who have the disease to make doctors sure it is not a female-only thing. So stop trying to make it seem that the government thinks all women are crazy and won't research their diseases; that's bull, and it's insulting.

Three: There is NOT conclusive proof that these fibers are agrobacteria. Tatken from the article:

"Stricker suspected that agrobacteria, common bacteria found just about everywhere that cause tumorous crown galls to form in trees, were somehow related to Morgellons because agrobacteria like to bind with cellulose. Citovsky studies agrobacteria and its use in genetically modifying plants. It was his lab that showed that agrobacteria can genetically transform any organism, including human cells, by transferring DNA into it. ... For his study, funded with $3,400 from MRF, Citovsky tested the skin of five people who believed they had Morgellons and a control group of five people, including himself, who did not. He found agrobacteria in only the Morgellons samples. Then he studied the fibers. Many of them, he says, appear to be polysaccharides, or long sugar molecules, which could be cellulose. And he found they contain traces of metal, such as aluminum. But, like Stricker, Savely and Wymore, he won't be certain what the fibers are until their DNA is tested, an expensive process that the MRF is unable to fund."

So these fibers aren't "actually" anything. I agree that there should be more money funnelled into research for this disease — it sounds terrible — but let's not discount the disease further by buying into the sensationalism surrounding it.