CDC Probes Bizarre Morgellons Condition

By MIKE STOBBE
The Associated Press
Tuesday, August 8, 2006; 8:15 PM

ATLANTA -- Imagine your body pocked by erupting sores. The sensation of little bugs crawling all over you. And worst of all, mysterious red and blue fibers sprouting from your skin.

It may sound like a macabre science fiction movie, but a growing legion of Americans say they suffer from this condition. And now the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is investigating.

Some doctors dismiss these patients as delusional. But the condition _ called Morgellons _ has caused a small frenzy on the Internet, with hundreds of people pleading for help.

"Sometimes the government doesn't want to panic people until they can figure out a definitive cause," said Pat Boddie, a 62-year-old Alabama woman who said she's had Morgellons for 14 years.

"They're trying to figure out if this is going to be an epidemic. I hate to tell them, but it already is," she said.

The CDC has been receiving as many as 20 calls a day from self-diagnosed Morgellons patients. The agency has been urged to investigate by, among others, U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California.

"We're going into this with an open mind," said Dan Rutz, spokesman for a CDC Morgellons task force that began meeting in June.

But so far there is no evidence of an infectious agent, and health officials say there is not yet enough evidence even to call it a disease.

People claiming to have Morgellons report a wide variety of symptoms, ranging from joint pain to irregular bowel movements. But most describe crawling sensations along the skin, sores, fatigue, "brain fog," and the appearance of small or microscopic fibers on or under the skin.

Some say they've suffered for decades, but the syndrome did not get a name until 2002, when the name "Morgellons" (pronounced mor-GELL-uns) was chosen by Mary Leitao. The South Carolina woman, who said her son suffers from the condition, founded the Morgellons Research Foundation.

She found the name in a 1674 medical paper that described a condition called Morgellons, with symptoms somewhat like her son's. So she began using the name. "I never expected it to stick," she said.

Leitao's organization has become a leading source of information and research advocacy, but it too has become controversial.


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