From the August 2006 Idaho Observer:
Is it of man or nature?
Morgellon’s disease has everyone stumped
compiled from reports
Biologist Mary Leitao’s son was just two years old when she noticed an odd sore on his lip that would not heal. When she asked him about it, "He very simply said ‘bugs,’ and he pointed to his lips," Leitao recalls.
Leitao, who used to run the electron microscope at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, could find nothing in the medical literature to help her diagnose what was happening to her little boy. So she did what any scientist would do—she began her own investigation. She never expected to find herself at the center of a medical controversy.
"What I saw were bundles of fibers, balls of fibers," Leitao says. "There was red and blue." Even stranger, they glowed under ultraviolet light.
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.
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."
She named the strange fibers "Morgellons disease" and put the information on a Website, Morgellons.org. Since then, more than 4,500 people have contacted Leitao, claiming they have Morgellons-type symptoms. The name has stuck, and the disease was featured on the television show "ER."
But do these fibers grow from inside the body — as Morgellons patients believe — or do they come from the external environment — a kind of lint — as the medical skeptics say?
Searching for an answer
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."
While they wait for evidence that they hope will convince the medical community to take them seriously, some Morgellons sufferers wear pink bracelets that say, simply, "Fortitude."
Ann Dill, a Morgellons sufferer whose husband died at age 40 from the mysterious disease last January, says she looks at pictures of her family from just four years ago and finds them unrecognizable. "My kids have to see not only their dad but their mom disintegrating, and that’s gotta be really scary."
Aug. 9, 2006 — Brandi Koch of Clearwater Beach, Fla., says she feels as if she’s living in a horror movie. She claims she has colored fibers coming out of her skin.
Brandi is married to Billy Koch, a former Major League baseball player who was one of a handful of pitchers who could throw a ball at more than 100 mph. Koch says her life was good, until one day in the shower she noticed something strange —tiny fibers running through her skin.
"The fibers look like hair, and they’re different colors," Koch says.
Go to www.Morgellons.org for more information as it becomes available.A research foundation has been formed. The CDC is investigating. No one knows what this "thing" is—a man-made fiber or a self-replicating organism. One thing is for sure, some 4,500 people claim that a mysterious "bug" is reproducing in their bodies and nothing, so far, is able to stop it.
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