The following CBS11 report suggests that a “dramatic new breakthrough” in the field of Morgellons was revealed at the recent Morgellons conference:
There may be a dramatic new breakthrough for hundreds of Texans who suffer from a mysterious disease. CBS 11 News was the only station at a medical conference that uncovered new research in the fight to prove Morgellons Disease is real.
In 2007, Dr. Stricker and experts in agrobacterium studied skin samples from seven Morgellons patients and found the DNA from the bacteria in all seven samples. Now the question is, how are people getting the bacteria in their bodies.
Firstly, this is not new, it’s over a year old. These findings were reported in January, 2007 – over a year ago.
Secondly, and more importantly, there is a very easy explanation as to how the bacteria got in their bodies: catheters. It’s very simple, and hinges upon three facts:
- The most common cause of agrobacterium infection is from intravenous catheters.
- Dr. Stricker uses intravenous catheters to treat his Morgellons and late-stage Lyme patients.
- Dr. Stricker supplied the samples used to test for agrobacterium
It seems then that these agrobacterium infections may not be a part of Morgellons, but are more likely a result of Dr. Strickers’ treatment methods.
(EDIT: See Dr Smith’s response, in the comments section).
Dr Smith says:
In these patients, agrobacterium was NOT cultured from the patients’ body. The DNA was detected by PCR testing in Dr. Vitaly Citovsky’s lab at StonyBrook. The samples submitted were skin biopsy specimens done on out-patients in the course of routine offiice visits. The patients were not acutely ill at the time and none had an in-dwelling catheter at the time. It is my understanding that 7 of 7 patients with Morgellons tested positive for agrobacterium and 0 of control patients were positive.
Let’s assume that is accurate, and see what other reasons there could be for this group of patients to have Agrobacterium in their skin samples.
First let’s ask what the difference is between the “Morgellons” patients and the control patients. From the Morgellons case definition:
3. Skin lesions, both (a) spontaneously appearing and (b) self-generated, often with pain or intense itching. The former (a) may initially appear as “hive-like”, or as “pimple-like” with or without a white center. The latter (b) appear as linear or “picking” excoriations.
“Self-generated” here means that the patient generates their own lesions by scratching and picking. The medical term for this is Neurotic Excoriations. There is a remarkable similarity between the lesions of patients with Neurotic Excoriations, and many (but not all) patients who claim to have Morgellons.
The control subjects were healthy individuals (lab workers), who did NOT have Neurotic Excoriations.
Hence another possible explanation for this study is that people with Neurotic Excoriations are greatly more susceptible to Agrobacterium infection (especially in the skin), than the general population. This seems very reasonable, as for the lesions to be “self-generated”, it would take constant repeditive scratching for many months. Fingernails get dirt under them. Dirt harbors agrobacterium. The scratching transfers agrobacterium to the skin.
Correlation does not imply causation. The presence of agrobacterium in a group of seven, while being absent in a control group, is statistically significant enough to warrant investigation. The presence of agrobacterium is likely indicative of some factor that the seven patients shared. I’ve given two possible shared factors here: 1) They were all patients of Dr. Stricker, and 2) They scratch their skin far more than is healthy. It is not hard to come up with other commonalities, such as the unusual use of certain medications prescribed by Stricker, or even the equipment and envirionment used to collect the samples.
This post is a response to claims of a “dramatic new breakthrough”, and I simply hope to point out that this is no such thing, but simply a statistically interesting observation that currently indicates absolutly nothing, but perhaps warrants further study.
Indeed it may well turn out that Agrobacterium IS a common infection in patients with Neurotic Excoriations, and this may be a previously undiscovered common complication, which doctors can then treat. Meaning it could actually be a useful breakthrough, but not directly to do with the assertion that Morgellons is a distinct disease.