Reporting Ginger Allen
DALLAS (CBS 11 NEWS) - Five years ago, CBS 11 News began investigating a bizarre medical condition known as Morgellons Disease. Those who claim to have it describe unusual symptoms like strange fibers poking through their skin. But, the question all along has been is it real, or is it just in the patient’s mind?
In 2008, CBS 11 was the first to report that the Centers For Disease Control would be launching its own investigation to determine if Morgellons was in fact a new and real disease. (Click here to read the CDC Morgellons press release.) Now, the agency is making its findings public in this report. But, it may not be what patients hoped to hear.
“I feel the itchy and the creepy crawly,” said Cindy Casey when we first met her in 2007. “It’s been extremely disfiguring… every part of my body, hands, legs, arms, and back.”
Casey has been dealing with effects of a mysterious illness for more than a decade.
“I don’t escape it for one moment of the day,” she said. “I’m constantly aware of it.”
She’s one of thousands around the country who claim to have the condition known as Morgellons Disease. Symptoms include lesions, and the sensation of bugs crawling under the skin. But, the most unusual of all the symptoms are tiny fibers that patients say literally grow out of their skin.
“It’s miserable,” Casey said. “It feels like splinters, like you have splinters coming out all over.”
Casey and many other patients have been turned away from numerous doctors who tell them it’s all in their head.
“He basically told me I was delusional,” said another patient. “Delusional Parasitosis is the common diagnosis.”
In January 2008, patients saw hope when the CDC announced it was launching an investigation to determine if Morgellons was indeed a newfound infectious disease.
“We believe that the suffering many people associate with this condition is best addressed by a careful objective scientific analysis,” Dr. Michele Pearson, with the CDC, explained during a 2008 conference call to announce the study.
Four years later, that study is complete, and CBS 11 obtained a copy. Inside, the CDC concludes that “no…infectious source was identified.”
As for the fibers found on the patients in the study, the CDC says those fibers were “consistent with skin fragments or materials such as cotton.”
But, the CDC stops short of saying the condition is all in the patient’s mind. The study says they were “unable to conclude whether this unexplained dermopathy represents a new condition, or a wider recognition of an existing condition such as delusional infestation.”
Doctors Rhonda Casey and Randy Wymore – who research Morgellons at Oklahoma State University and believe it’s a real condition – say while the study doesn’t offer much hope for those suffering, it did not exactly shut the door all together.
“Morgellons is real,” said Dr. Casey. “We know it’s real. What they decided is these patients don’t have this thing we’ve looked at.”
“If this was a delusional disorder and their study proved that, they would’ve said it,” said Dr. Wymore.
We also spoke to Cindy Casey – the North Texas patient – about the findings. She said she’s thankful the CDC made some kind of effort, but doesn’t believe it was a fair study.
While the CDC’s investigation came to a conclusion about the fibers, it did not determine what was causing the lesions on the patient’s bodies. CBS 11 asked if the CDC was planning any further studies, but a spokesperson said further CDC involvement was unnecessary.