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Tuesday, July 25, 2006

CDC considers Texas for Morgellons study

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is launching a study of Morgellons disease that may target South Texas where more than 100 people are suffering from the illness.

Cindy Casey suffers from Morgellons. Symptoms of the disease include lesions that leave scars, the sensation of bugs crawling under the skin, and fibers that pop out of the skin.

"Mostly black and white. Some of them were blue, and some of them were red. The whole area gets really sore and you feel some sort of crawling sensation around the lesion," Casey said.

Like others, Casey was diagnosed with delusional parasitosis — delusions of parasites. Most doctors do not recognize Morgellons as a disease.

However, one medical school is taking Morgellons very seriously. Most of the research on Morgellons is being done at Oklahoma State University in Tulsa. Doctors and scientists at OSU said this disease is real, and it's frightening.

"I am 100 percent convinced that Morgellons is a real disease pathology," said Dr. Randy Wymore, an assistant professor of pharmacology and physiology at OSU.

Wymore has spent the past year studying hundreds of fibers from Morgellons patients.

"The samples do look very similar to one another," he said.

Wymore added that the fibers don't look like anything found in textiles. He has also determined that the fibers are not rubbing off from clothing, because doctors at OSU have found the fibers inside the body.

"We were able to observe fibers under completely unbroken skin," he said.

Dr. Rhonda Casey has examined more than 30 Morgellons patients.

"There's no question in my mind that it's a real disease," she said.

Dr. Casey has extracted fibers from under the skin, and examined them under a microscope.

"If it were not for the fibers, the patients would all be taken seriously. So I think even though the fibers may be a key to helping us diagnose this disease, they have also been a hinderance to it even being accepted as a real disease in the past," she said.

Even thought the lesions and fibers are the most visible symptoms, doctors said the more damaging effects of this disease are the nerve and neurological damage, which affects the ability to think and move.

"Trouble concentrating, trouble communicating, and problems thinking of the words you want to say, and how you want to express yourself," patient Cindy Casey said.

However, it is the symptoms that sound like science fiction that make this disease like no other.

"I pulled some fibers out, and I was just taking a look at it, and the fibers just started to move around, kind of around each other," Cindy Casey said. "And I screamed to Charles (my husband), 'Charles, come here and look, because everyone's been telling me I'm crazy. Charles, look at this,' and he looked at it, and yeah, he saw it too."

"This one I didn't want to believe," Charles Casey said.

Incidents like that are just one more bizarre part to this puzzling disease that seems to be spreading.

"There is the slightly frightening component to it that we don't know what causes this. If more and more people are coming down with Morgellons, we need to get a handle on this," Wymore said. "Is there an environmental component that needs to be addressed? Is it contagious? These are all things that we don't know the answer to at this point."


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