August 2006

Factitious Disorders

Psychological Implications in Morgellons Disease, Part II: Factitious Disorders

Sarah Bione-Dunn

In Sickened, a memoir of Münchhausen syndrome by proxy by Julie Gregory, Dr. Marc Feldman writes: “Münchhausen by proxy may be the single most complex– and lethal– form of maltreatment known today. It is formally defined as the falsification or induction of physical and/or emotional illness by a caretaker of a dependent person. In most cases, the perpetrator is a mother and the victim is her own child.”

Factitious disorders such as Münchhausen syndrome (MS) and Münchhausen syndrome by proxy (MSBP) may be factors for some cases of Morgellons disease. Symptoms of factitious disorders include intentional production or feigning of physical signs or symptoms, and physical symptoms motivated by a desire to assume the sick role (DSM-IV-TR). Depression, need for a sense of community, and unsupportive parental relationships are suggested causes of MS/MSBP, though the precise cause of factitious disorders are not understood (Ozden & Canat, 1999).

Many Morgellons sufferers and MS/MSBP sufferers have behaviors in common. MS/MSBP sufferers research their supposed ailments and are knowledgeable about medicine (Miner & Feldman, 1998). People with MS/MSBP eagerly undergo or offer to partake in painful testing or treatment (Stern & Cremens, 1998), as do Morgellons sufferers. Both conditions continually reject known explanations for their health; Morgellons sufferers notably reject diagnoses such as eczema, environmental factors, poor nutrition, side effects from medication, side effects from illegal substances, etc. as the agents of their illness. The two conditions also share negative attitudes toward the medical community, strong aversion to mental health, and doctor-shopping behaviors for someone to find something– anything– wrong with them.

Communication on an internet message board is indirect and impersonal. Lymebuster’s policy of banning anyone who questions another’s health, symptoms, or motivations, makes it a dangerous breeding ground for the few who suffer from MS/MSBP. Having MS/MSBP may not have been why they began to seek Morgellons as a new disease to fabricate, but because of the isolated, “no one allowed who doesn’t agree” attitude, it is a safe haven for people to continue in their deviance. MS/MSBP sufferers and perpetrators can then join the media pressure and participate in a “mysterious, emerging disease” to satisfy their psychological issues, as they already feel on the fringe from their continual rejection by physicians.


Somatoform Disorders

Psychological Implications in Morgellons Disease, Part I: Somatoform Disorders

Sarah Bione-Dunn

Many sufferers of Morgellons complain that doctors won’t “open their eyes and see” that “something” is wrong with them. When physical illnesses have no apparent medical cause, physicians may suspect a somatoform disorder. A somatoform disorder is a pattern of physical complaints with largely psychosocial causes (Tayler & Mann, 1999). People with somatoform disorders do not purposefully induce their symptoms (as with Munchausen syndrome, a condition where people intentionally induce or feign illness) but believe that their problems are truly medical.

Preoccupation somatoform disorders involve people who are healthy, but become preoccupied with a mistaken belief that something is physically wrong with them. The DSM-IV-TR describes symptoms include a history of many physical complaints, usually beginning before the age of 30, that occur over a period of several years and result in treatment being sought or in significant impairment, physical complaints not fully explained by a known medical condition or drug, or extending beyond the usual impact of such a condition.

Some people with Morgellons disease have these symptoms. A history of treatment being sought for lesions, sores, crawling sensations and bugs emerging from the skin or body orifices, fatigue, fibers, and more, is typical of a Morgellons sufferer. Impairment includes people quitting their jobs, moving, staying in a hotel, withdrawal from family and friends. These complaints are not fully explained by a known medical condition or drug, and that is most significant, as it is that way with somatoform disorders. Morgellons sufferers are quoted as going from doctor to doctor for ten years without one finding cause for the complaint (Savely, 2006).

Morgellons sufferers will often admit to becoming hypersensitive or hyper vigilant regarding their skin, as is common with preoccupation somatoform disorders. This hyper vigilance creates an illusion of fantastic situations in what would normally be recognized as the usual and then dismissed. These mis-attributions snowball into a person engaging in dangerous self-medication and rebuffs from doctors, similar to Morgellons disease. In Morgellons disease, sufferers often self-medicate by bathing in bleach (or other caustic materials), ingesting mordacious concoctions, and cutting their own skin.

Even though self-proclaimed experts on Morgellons cite mental health problems as common correlates of Morgellons, the sufferers have a strong adverse reaction to the suggestion of mental health being involved in their condition, which is symptomatic of somatoform disorders. Because of this strong reaction to mental health, it is unlikely that a person who does not feel mentally ill would seek mental health assistance.


  • Savely, V., Leitao, M., & Stricker, R. 2006. The mystery of Morgellons disease: infection or delusion? Am. J. Clin. Dermatol. 7(1), 1-5.
  • Taylor, R., & Mann, A.H. 1999. Somatization in primary care. J. Psychosom. Res. 47(1), 61-66.

Occam’s Menopause

How can thousands of people across the country all have the same symptoms? This is a question I am often asked regarding Morgellons, and my response has generally been that they don’t, the symptoms are varied, and where the symptoms are similar, there are many known causes for those symptoms.

In my previous article, “Occam’s Hot Tub“, I posited a possible series of events that might lead to someone thinking they had Morgellons, when in reality they had hot tub folliculitus, neurotic excoriations and fiberglass splinters.

But let’s consider a much more common possible cause, one that could account for a very large percentage of cases. Consider if the symptoms of menopause match the symptoms of Morgellons.

First, remember who these thousands of people are. They are the people who filled in an internet form, first at the MRF, and now at OSU. The form is really lacking in epidemiologically useful questions, but does ask which of the following 12 Morgellons symptoms you have:

Lesions or sores
Fibers or filaments on skin
Granules or specks on the skin
Itching or stinging
Hair loss
Joint pain
Biting or crawling feeling on the skin
Mood disorder
Memory or concentration problems
(ex: ‘brainfog’, short term memory loss)
Vision problems
Edema or swelling

Skipping the first three for now (don’t worry, I’ll address them later), let us look at the rest, grouping them as appropiate:

Itching or stinging, Biting or crawling feeling on the skin
“Formication, the feeling that ants or other insects are crawling on their skin, affects about 20% of women during perimenopause and menopause. Formication can cause a woman to scratch herself raw.”
“many women experience severe itching during perimenopause that is unrelated to formication”
Some women experience a prickling, itching sensation on the skin, known as formication. It has been called “crawling skin” because it feels as though tiny insects are marching along your body.”
Menopause: A guide for Women and Those who Love them, Berg and Garcia, 1992, p.76
“Skin tingling or a feeling that unseen insect are crawling across your skin is called formication. It is a symptom of menopausal distress. […] 20 percent of menopausal women report the problem”

Joint Pain
“Symptoms of menopause you may be experiencing include: […] Muscle and joint pain
Joint pain is a common complaint in many women and men as we reach middle age.”

Fatigue, Mood disorder, Memory or concentration problems
“Psychologic and emotional symptoms–including fatigue, irritability, insomnia, inability to concentrate, depression, memory loss, headache, anxiety, and nervousness–may be related to estrogen deprivation and the stress of aging and changing roles. Sleep disruption by recurrent hot flushes contributes to fatigue and irritability.”
mood disturbance, irritability, fatigue, decreased libido, memory loss

Vision Problems
Visual capacity, such as the ability to read road signs at night, has been reported to decline by a sample of menopausal women.”
Changes in visual acuity requiring changes in eyeglass prescriptions or other vision problems.”

Hair Loss
“Approximately one-third of menopausal women report noticeable hair loss (called “alopecia”)”
“The most common cause of hair loss is low thyroid function, which is common among menopausal women.

Edema or swelling
Water retention and menopause often go hand in hand since water weight and bloating are caused by decreased progesterone levels.”
Water retention is excessive accumulation of fluid in the body. It occurs in women during menopause or perimenopause when they take estrogen replacement hormones.”

So, 9 out of 12 symptoms are common symptoms of menopause. We can easily make it 10 by including lesions, since “Formication can cause a woman to scratch herself raw.”, but also since a “lesion” can be almost any abnormal change involving any tissue or organ. The most common skin lesion is acne:
“women undergoing menopause and post-menopause may also experience hormonal acne
“Menopausal and post-menopausal women experience a dramatic decrease in estrogen levels, and an increase in testosterone. This causes the skin glands to produce more oil than they usually do, and as a result, more acne breakouts occur.”

So all we are left with is fibers and specks on the skin. If you look, you will find them. I have fibers and specks on my skin right now.

A slightly better survey of Morgellons believers can be found at:

In August 2006, this only had 305 respondents, but of those, 76% are women, and 80% are in the age range 35-60 (the age range of menopause onset), with the highest number in the 50-54 range – the average age of menopause onset)

So, all the symptoms of Morgellons on one internet survey are practically identical to the symptoms of menopause, and the other survey indicates that the vast majority of people with Morgellons are women of menopausal age.

Does this mean that all cases of Morgellons are actually menopause? Obviously not, we’ve got a few men there, and several people with highly odd symptoms, and some children. But the correlation is so staggeringly high, that it seems very likely that as many as half of those 5000+ people who say they have symptoms of morgellons actually have symptoms of menopause.

Nancy Hinkle on Delusory Parasitosis

Most people who strongly believe they have Morgellons will complain that their doctors dismiss them as “DOP”, a common abbreviation for “Delusions Of Parasites”.

The Morgellons activists seek to portray their plight as a struggle of genuinely sick people against an uncaring medical profession that dismisses their symptoms as “all in your head”. Any suggestion of anything like DOP is reviled, and the believers wander from doctor to doctor, seeking those who will look beyond this.

To understand the Morgellons community, you need to understand DOP. One of the worlds leading experts on DOP is Nancy Hinkle, PhD. Hinkle is not a physician, she is an entomologist, so if anyone can find the bugs, it’s going to be her. Back in 2001, before the MRF got off the ground, she had an interview on this subject with the Discovery Channel in Canada.

If you are interested in Morgellons, I highly recommend you watch this video (it’s only about six minutes long), as it provides a simple overview of DOP, as well as the varied causes, which are mostly physical in nature. She also makes the distinction between those who are simply mistaken, and those who are delusional.

Out of the hundreds of samples that people have sent Dr. Hinkle over the years, NONE had insects in them. Her most telling quote: “If they are desperate enough they will usually find something”.

Dr. Hinkle also wrote a highly lucid paper on the subject in 2000:

Scratching may produce papular eruptions. Any
repeated skin irritation produces a friction blister.
Repeated rubbing of an area often produces a bleb
(small blister) which, when ruptured, yields an open
sore that may become infected. Once the sore
begins oozing plasma and a scab forms, hairs and
cloth fibers become entrapped in the sticky fluid.
These flecks are dislodged and called mites or
insects because they look like they have “antennae”
and “legs” (Fig. 2). Hair follicles often are pulled
out; the follicle accompanied by the associated
sebaceous gland looks like a worm.

Morgellons Cure?

In his article “A cure for Morgellons disease?”, Dr Chris Rangel says something that Morgellons believers will like:

“these patients are neither crazy nor are they faking their symptoms “

I agree, at least with the point he is making. Here’s the full article:

Here is the article in the NY Times:

And here’s the actual study under discussion:

And the “cure” (Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy for Somatization Disorder) 

Is this a “cure for Morgellons”? No, it’s an effective treatment for Somatization Disorder.  That might cover a lot of the cases of Morgellons, but it’s not going to treat those who have genuine dermatological and neurological disorder, and simply mistakenly believe they have Morgellons, since they find some fibers on their skin.  It might help them seek more effective treatments, however.

Coming Attractions

After the Primetime: Medical Mysteries show on ABC, there was a great flurry of activity in the Morgellons world, then everything went quiet. Is Morgellons losing favor with the media? Here’s a run-down of current and upcoming goings-on in the world of “Morgellons.”

The Morgellons Research Foundation lost half its board members and its only scientist in a dispute over accounting and the leadership style of Mary Leitao. The three primary members of the MRF remain: Leitao, Doug Buckner and Ken Cowles. William Harvey, a big Lyme fan, steps in as new chairman. Will the MRF be able to recover from this schism? So far nothing has been heard from them, other than the Stalinesque purging of their web site of all mention of the former members.

The former MRF members formed the New Morgellons Order. This unfortunately named organization quickly lived up to its name by appearing on the Jeff Rense radio show, which normally features UFOs, Chemtrails, Anti-Zionism, New World Order and other conspiracy theories. Can the NMO be taken seriously? Will the upcoming two day Morgellons Festival help?

LymeBusters message board, closely affiliated with the MRF, forbids all mention of the MFR/NMO split. Anyone who even brings it up is banned, and all their posts are deleted. Discussion proceeds at a reduced pace, with Lysol Toilet Cleaner the current popular “cure.” Can Lymebusters continue under the oppression of censorship?

George Schwartz says on August 13th: “We have developed effective treatment for the “Morgellons” condition and have isolated the thread-forming stage of the organism. This will be presented at an intl meeting and there will be a monograph and CD of the presentation within two weeks. After that time, our group will be free to speak about our treatments and discoveries. With all best wishes. GR Schwartz MD“. Schwartz recently had his license revoked for illegally percribing narcotics. His web site claims to treat opiate (heroin) addiction with a 100% success rate, as well as making other dubious medical claims including his last Morgellons theory that Morgellons comes from bottled water from France. I await his monograph with interest.

The Union Square Medical Associates claims to be treating “hundreds” of Morgellons patients. USMA is where Dr. Raphael Stricker and Nurse Practicioner Ginger Savely work (both are members of the MRF). For the past eight years the USMA web site has focused on peddling Viagra and weight loss drugs, as well as a number of unusual therapies. Why does it not advertise the Morgellons treatments? Do they think it’s just Lyme? Someone from their office said “you really should keep your mouth shut, because in the not too distant future, you will be sticking your foot in your mouth.” I await this with interest.

Professor Randy Wymore breaks with the MRF. Wymore has been the reason Morgellons has been taken seriously by the mainstream press, and his disassociation with the MRF is a blow to their credibility. Wymore wants to continue his research, but his startup money will run out soon, and results so far have been inconclusive. Will OSU fund any more research? Will Wymore continue?

The CDC has formed a task force to see if Morgellons is a distinct disease. Since the CDC aims to nip new diseases in the bud, you would think they would make a determination fairly soon (if there IS a disease, if there is not, it might take longer). The involvement of the CDC has been a big press talking point, and their initial report will be very interesting.

Occam’s Hot Tub

“Morgellons Disease” is the name chosen by Mary Leitao in 2002 to represent what she thought was wrong with her son – a disease that supposedly caused eczema-like symptoms on his face, and some fibers she found in the lesions on his skin. Leitao started a web site, other people who though they had a similar disease joined her and began a campaign to publicize the “disease”. Eventually the media picked up the story, public interest grew, more people self diagnosed, people wrote to their congressmen, the CDC started an investigation, more media coverage followed, and more people self diagnose.

“Occam’s Razor” is a maxim attributed to the 14th century friar William of Occam, and goes:

“entities should not be multiplied beyond necessity.”

This is often misunderstood as either “the simplest explanation is the best”, or “the shortest theory is correct”. Take the question “why is there fighting in the Middle East”, the simplest explanation is “God’s will”, but the reality is more complex.

What Occam is saying is that you should not add unnecessary entities to an explanation. However it says nothing about adding necessary entities, nor about how many of them there should be. In many cases the best explanation using Occam’s Razor is neither short, nor simple.

You also need to ask a good question to get a good answer. “What is Morgellons” is not a good question, since it presupposes that Morgellons is something. “What causes Morgellons” is worse, since it assumes the first question is answered. The question that should be asked is:

“What is wrong with all those people who say they have Morgellons?”.

Again, we could go for a simple explanation like “they were cursed by the devil”, but that’s introducing an unnecessary entity (the devil) so fails the test of Occam’s Razor. What about “they have a new disease that causes lesions and fibers”. That too introduces a new entity, a “new disease”. The question Occam would ask here is “is a new disease necessary to explain what is wrong with all the people who say they have Morgellons?”.

In other words: can we explain what is happening to the Morgellons believers without introducing a new entity, without the “new disease”.

One thing is for sure, the explanation is not simple. The wide variety of symptoms make it extremely unlikely that a single pathogen is responsible for all the cases. In fact, only the most ardent supporters of Morgellons will suggest that everyone has the same thing. Even supporter such as Dr. Wymore will concur that a large percentage of the people who post on places such as Lymebusters have some form of delusional disorder, and that the majority of the fibers are simply lint.

But I think I can phrase the answer to “what is wrong with them” in a reasonably short manner:

“They all have different health problems with a superficial symptomatic resemblence, and they mistakenly believe they have the same disease”

That’s a simple explanation. It fits the facts very well. It does not introduce any new entities. Clearly there are lots of different health problems going on. The only commonality is fibers, and that is explained in a very simple manner by them being environmental. What we have introduced here is “lots of different health problems”, but that’s not a “new entity”, since it’s already a given that they have lots of different health problems.

I’ve gone over what those health problems might be in several previous posts. This all simply explains what is going on, in a way Occam would like. But there are a few niggling problems, like red and blue fibers that do not melt at 1400F, that were extracted from under unbroken skin.

Again we are asked to believe one particular answer: “they were produced by a novel organism of a type new to science that creates fibers that can withstand temperatures that would destroy any organic material, and in several colors”, which introduces this rather complex new entity.

In this case we can produce a shorter answer for these particular fireproof fibers: “the fibers came from ouside the body, and slipped under the skin”. There are fibers outside the body, and fibers can slip under the skin, like fiberglass fibers, which melt at 2000F.

The Morgellons phenomenon is a good example of a case of Occam’s razor where the more accurate explanation is more complex than the explanation that introduces new entities. The short answer is “a new disease”, the more accurate answer is “many diseases, known and possibly unknown, combined with many environmental factors”. There’s a lot of entities in that explanation, especially when you look at individual cases, but there are no NEW entities being introduced. Just as the real explanation for the strife in the middle east is vastly more complex than “God’s will”, the real explanation for all the thousands of claims of Morgellons Disease if vastly more complex than “New Disease”.

The real answer is comprised of thousands of different stories, mini-explanations to mini-questions, sub questions to “what is going on with these people”. Like: “why would someone have fireproof blue fibers under their skin and also have neurotic excoriations”

I don’t know the right answer, but I’m going to posit a straightforward one called “Occam’s Hot Tub”.

Some time ago, the patient used a blue fiberglass hot tub. The fiberglass suffered from “fiber bloom” (prevalent in FL, CA and TX, thanks to the weather), which creates loose splinter of fiberglass. The pressure of sitting on and against the tub caused large numbers of these splinters to become embedded in the patient’s skin. The water was also contaminated with Pseudomonas aeruginosa, a bactirium that causes “hot tub folliculitis“. This developed into an itchy rash with many lesions, accompanied by a general sickness. The embedded fibers contributed to the itching. The patient scratched, which made things worse, creating new lesions, and creating an itch-scratch-itch cycle, compounded by a mild OCD. The initial rash cleared up, but the itching continued because of the now neurotic scratching. Normal fibers were found in the lesions. The patient is convinced she has Morgellons. She goes to Dr. Wymore, who extracts some of the fiberglass fibers from under the unbroken skin on her back.

Sure, it’s a long explanation, and we don’t know if it fits the facts, since we don’t know the evidence for the actual case. But if the patient had indeed been in a hot tub sometime in the past, then that would explain the blue fiber a lot simpler than a new disease would. It does not introduce any new entities.

There is no evidence presented that a new entity is required to explain. There is no need for a new disease to explain the thousands of people who self-diagnosed with Morgellons.

Fibers on Primetime

OSU is apparently the only place in the world where mainstream researchers are looking into “Morgellons”. The research is being carried out by Professor Randy Wymore as a discretionary project. So far they make two claims:

1) They have extracted fibers from under the skin of Morgellons patients

2) They have been unable to identify the fibers, despite extensive efforts

Here’s the fiber they showed on Primetime:


It’s in the hands of a doctor, who they blindsided by handing him this picture and telling him that despite extensive testing, it was like no fiber known to exist.

He handled it rather well, responding “one fiber does not make a new disease”, and we could very well leave it at that, since it sums things up nicely. But let’s take a closer look at the OSU evidence.

Here’s what has been revealed so far:

We have tested three fibers, two blue, one red.
We are completely unable to determine what these fibers are made from, because there is no match in any known databases.
There isn’t even anything that is a close match.
The red fiber is chemically different to the blue fibers.
The blue fibers are chemically identical to each other.
The fibers sat in acid and many other solvents we had for a week, but they did not leach color.
The fibers did not melt or boil when heated to 1400F (760C). They kept their structural integrity, although they did turn black (whereas anything organic would be ash at those temps)

Not, a lot, but at least it’s getting towards some scientific evidence. Unfortunately it really just raises a lot more questions than it answers.

What about some simpler info on the fibers? How wide were they? How long? How ductile were they?

Where did these fibers come from? Different people? What other symptoms did they have?

How were the fibers extracted? Where on the body were they? How many other fibers did the person have?

What parameters were used to search for the fibers in databases? What databases? FTIR? What is the statistical significance of not finding a substance in this database?

What acid was used? How were they heated?

They showed an FTIR graph on the show:

Is this a graph of the mystery material? Unfortunately it’s two graphs overlaid, so you can’t tell much. Why does Wymore not tell us what the peaks were for this fiber?
I could go on, but the point is that this new evidence really suggests almost nothing. If anything the fact that the red and the blue fibers were different suggests that this is NOT something produced inside the body, as that would be much more likely to produce identical fibers.

The high melting point of the fibers suggests it is not organic, which again is a point against it being produced inside the body. It point much more strongly to environmental contamination.

So what we have is three unknown fibers, of unknown origin. The characteristics of these fibers seem to suggest they are not organic, hence were not produced inside the body.

The wider question here is why Dr. Wymore is participating in this media extravaganza? he personally is convinced that “something” is going on with “some” morgellons patients. But refuses to say why. He’s even said he’s “months beyond” trying to explain why. yet he has no problem with appearing on television and hence convincing thousands of vulnerable people that they have a novel pathogen, and should ignore their doctor’s advice.

Wymore is soliciting charitable contributions. He has a responsibility to explain why.


Addendum: Here’s another source of chemically treated red white and blue fibers:



Any guesses?

ABC ‘Morgellons’ Medical Mystery

The “Medical Mysteries” series is proving to be quite a money maker for ABC. The New York Daily News reports:

It’s been a challenging summer for the usually dominant ABC. How tough? Reality offerings have crashed and burned. Few are watching reruns of “Lost,” “Grey’s Anatomy” and “Desperate Housewives.” But things are looking up. ABC News’ “Medical Mysteries” series, which examines bizarre medical conditions, has turned out to be a real crowd- pleaser.

So it’s not surprising that they would continue to promote the series, and as part of this promotion offer up a preview story on their ABC “news” site, right next to the wolfman, the echolocating blind men, and the women who smell like dead fish.

The ABC Story features Morgellons Patients: Brandi Koch, Anne Dill, Greg Smith and also Mary Leitao, the founder of the MRF, and her son, Drew.

Leitao’s part in the story is interesting, since it explains the start of the Morgellons phenomenon:

Armed with research, Leitao took her son to a doctor at one of the country’s leading hospitals. He dismissed her tale of fibers and wrote to her pediatrician, saying that her son needed Vaseline for his lips and that his mother needed a thorough psychiatric evaluation.

well, you would think that the next logical step in the story would be to explain how she found her son’s fibers were not normal, and disproved all the doctors, but no, we get:

Undaunted, Leitao began poring through the medical literature looking for clues. What she discovered was a 17th-century reference to a strange disease with “harsh hairs” called “morgellons.”

A disease where infants have a fever, and then you rub milk on them, hairs spring from their backs, which you pluck, and the fever vanishes. Nothing to do with anything. Why do they keep bringing this up?

What does Mary say about Drew’s fibers:

“What I saw were bundles of fibers, balls of fibers,” Leitao says. “There was red and blue.” Even stranger, they glowed under ultraviolet light.

I have explained red and blue fibers before. I’ve also explained the glowing (although that’s usually white fibers, which Mary also found, just did not mention in this story). I’ve even discussed the fibers emerging from his lip. There is no evidence at all that Drew had anything at all unusual going on.

Now here’s something I’m looking forward to seeing:

Dr. Greg Smith of Gainesville, Ga., has been a pediatrician for the past 28 years. He claims a fiber is coming out of his big toe, and he has video footage to prove it.

Video footage of fibers emerging is something I’ve been suggesting for a while. The fibers are the only really interesting thing about “this disease” for which you might have a chance of getting some evidence.

The rest of the article is similar to other media articles. Anne Dill (who has a very impressive photo gallery) says her husband died of Morgellons, but he was actually diagnosed with ALS. 4500 people are supposed to have contacted Leitao, when all they did was fill in an internet survey. A doctor says that the lesions form when people scratch themselves.But the real news, and what I suspect that MRF were so excited about before they collapsed, is that the Tulsa City police department were unable to identify some fibers collected from a Morgellons Patient by Randy Wymore:

Forensic scientist Ron Pogue at the Tulsa Police Crime Lab in Oklahoma checked a morgellons sample against known fibers in the FBI’s national database. “No, no match at all. So this is some strange stuff,” Pogue says. He thinks the skeptics are wrong. “This isn’t lint. This is not a commercial fiber. It’s not.”

The lab’s director, Mark Boese, says the fibers are “consistent with something that the body may be producing.” He adds, “These fibers cannot be manmade and do not come from a plant. This could be a byproduct of a biological organism.”

What kind of obscure biological organism produces fibers? Bombyx mori? Rodentia Chinchillidae? Ovis aries? Exactly how extensive is this FBI national database, and how do you check a sample against it? Here’s an earlier mention of the involvement of the Tulsa Police:

The fibers, about the size of small eyebrow hairs, are not living organisms, Dr. Wymore decides. He teams with a Tulsa police department crime lab to sort through fiber samples, and though the lab owns a database of more than 800 fibers, these fibers match nothing.

800 fibers does not sound like very many to me. I bet they don’t have this one:mystery-60x-1.jpg

or this one:

I’ve got more. My point is that 800 fibers might cover 90% of the common household fibers found in your average bit of lint, but there’s still probably over 10,000 other uncommon fibers like the above – lots of room for unidentified fibers. (A prize to the first person to correctly identify the above two photos – they are from a QX5 at 60x, so are about 3mm across).

Here’s a natural man-made fiber (the large one on the bottom right):

I KNOW they don’t have that one in their fiber database. Why? I made it myself, simply by firmly rubbing my upper arm with a fingertip after having a hot shower. Some old sun-dried skin sloughed off, and rolled up with natural skin oil and sebum, forming this fiber-like shape. Everyone has these “fibers” from time to time, not everyone really looks at them with a microscope, or asks the police to identify them.

Here’s a much better article on Morgellons, from the Associated Press:

He recruited two Oklahoma State faculty physicians. They tweezed fibers from beneath the skin of some Morgellons patients who visited the Oklahoma State Center for Health Sciences in Tulsa in February, Wymore said, and sent those samples to the Tulsa Police Department’s forensic laboratory.

The police checked the samples against carpet and clothing fibers and other materials, and conducted chemical analyses and other tests. Nothing matched, said Mark Boese, the police lab’s director.

“How it is being produced, I don’t know,” Boese said. He theorized the fibers could be produced by human hair follicles that somehow encapsulated pollutants processed by the body.

I’ve nothing against the Tulsa Police forensic department (although they do seem to be big fans of CSI). But again, all they have said is they cannot identify some fibers, and they don’t think they are man-made or plant fibers. Hopefully more information will be forthcoming, but they have not explained how they have scientifically determined they are “some strange stuff”. What tests were run? What were the results of the tests? The Tulsa police has some nice equipment. Were these tests run with public money? Can we have the results?

Maybe we’ll see more more details on the show. But remember, ABC is here to entertain you, their aim is to build market share. Keep that in mind, when weighing their evidence. Is it possible that there is some less entertaining evidence? How many fibers were looked at? How many of those fibers were simply not entertaining enough?

MRF Reshuffle

The changes at the Morgellons Research Foundation continue, after removing all references to nurses, and expruging Dr. Randy Wymore, Dr. Greg Smith, Charlse Holman and Cindy Casey, William Harvey is the new Chairman of the board.

The text “For our first Corporate Donation. Thanks to all the folks at SeaChange for their support..” has vanished from the “sponsors” page.  One wonders if this has anything to do with the recent allegations of financial problems.

The photo with the large check is also gone from that page (although it’s still on the site).

I was wondering if they were going airbrush people out of that photo, given the swiftness of the removal of their names from the site .  But I guess there were too many people to remove.

I think it’s too early to comment on the meaning of all this, so I’ll wait and see how things pan out.  

Of note is the big ABC Primetime: Medical Mysteries on Wednesday night at 10PM.  This is the great hope of the MRF, something they have been working on for months.  It’s airing will be a turning point, one way or another.