Posted by: Ticktock | April 16, 2008

Attack of the Morgellons!!!

 

I’ve been itching ever since I decided to post about this topic.  It’s a sensitive topic to those who suffer from it, but I feel like I’ve read enough to discuss it thoughtfully.  So here we go…

Morgellons disease is a condition first discovered in a child in 2002, and later described and named by his mother, Mary Leitao.  The symptoms include intense itching, the sensation of bugs crawling under the skin, and mysterious(?) microscopic fibers.  Many people dismiss the malady as delusional parasitosis and/or cutaneous dysaesthesia, both of which are essentially the psychological condition of feeling like bugs are crawling under your skin. Those who suffer from Morgellons disagree pointing to the mysterious fibers they find in the wounds.

There are two factors multiplying the emnity that morgellons patients feel toward their dismissive physicians.  The first is that they don’t like to be told that they are paranoid and delusional, and the second is that the madder they get the more delusional they seem.  Dermatologists and physicians are told to look for the “matchbox” or “ziploc” test as a sign that their patient has delusional parasitosis.  The matchbox test is when a patient brings in a matchbox or ziploc baggie filled with fibers and scabs that they’ve picked off of themselves, convinced that they hold evidence of the parasites that have been causing the itch.  This trait of delusional parasitosis is so common that many doctors immediately dismiss that patient as delusional, and fail to take their claims seriously.  People suffering from the ceaseless itching become enraged at being ignored or treated like they’re crazy.

The fibers that are found are usually just the same organic compound as everyday cotton or tissue.  The colors are typically primary colors found in an average wardrobe.  Claims of white glowing fibers are really just white cotton fabrics that shine under a blacklight- try it with any t-shirt.  Organic and inorganic fibers are everywhere… even on your own skin.  A simple test that anyone can do is to peel tape off of your own skin a few times and examine it under a microscope; you’ll see that there are fibers that look squiggly and sinister.  Patients who suffer from morgellons claim that these fibers grow out of them, but this is just an effect caused by the constant itching; fibers are scratched into open sores and scabs giving the illusion of them growing from within.

Some people have theorized (including her own pediatrician) that the original mother, Mary Leitao, is a classic case of munchaeusen by proxy, the psychological disorder in some mothers that causes them to purposefully hurt their children or imagine symptoms for the purpose of sympathy and attention.  Looking at what has happened here, I would say that there is a good chance this is the case.  All her children have been self-diagnosed with morgellons, they have mysterious lethargy, and their mother has now become semi-famous and started a web site on a disease she invented.  *DISCLAIMER*  I am not a psychiatrist or a doctor.  My opinions and comments are amateur and are not meant to be personal attacks.  Don’t sue me.

One doctor, Randy Wymore, an assistant professor of physiology and pharmacology at Oklahoma State University, has become extremely involved in the developments of morgellons.  He offered to help Mary with studying the disease and sent the fibers to a crime lab for investigation.  The fibers failed to match any fiber in their database of thousands of samples.  This isolated anomaly has added much fuel to the fire of conspiracy theorists, but has yet to be replicated (as far as I know) with other people who have morgellons. 

Randy Wymore (who is not versed in diagnostic techniques, fiber analysis, dermatology, psychology or epidemiology) has gone to great lengths to discredit skeptics such as myself.  He even went on a rant in his position paper on Morgellons about skeptic sites such as this and (I presume) his actual target- morgellonswatch.com.  I’d like to address some of his complaints…

Amateur debunkers carry no weight in academia and have no relevance in the discussion of Morgellons Disease in the scientific and medical community.

It’s very simple.  Either the scientific evidence supports the claims, or it doesn’t.  Most “debunkers” (skeptics) are science advocates that are seeking the truth and more than happy to change their position when proven wrong.  It’s a straw man to say that we ever claimed an interest in interfering or being involved in the medical community.

An amateurish debunking approach is often nothing more than a type argumentative arrogance. A person, or persons, manages to attract an audience that will participate in the argument and it gives the debunker a sense of power. What goes on at debunking sites is most definitely NOT scientific debate and critical inquiry.

He is making a sweeping generalization and attacking with an ad hominem argument.  By attacking a skeptic’s arrogance and power trip, he is making a personal attack without offering evidence of his claim.

Critical scientific debate occurs at conferences (regional, national or international), during seminars and during the editorial review when scientific manuscripts are submitter. If an amateur debunker (unless the debunker is paid for the debunking services, in which case she/he would be a professional debunker) feels that they can compete in the professional scientific arena, let them submit an abstract to a conference or a manuscript to a scientific journal (a legitimate, peerreviewed scientific journal). The results would be laughable;

Me thinks the lady doth protest to much.  Many skeptics like myself are simply interested in defending the types of quality studies that are published in peer reviewed journals; we never claimed to be professional scientists and are only too happy to follow the evidence provided by many of Dr. Wymore’s peers.  It’s also false to claim that unprofessional skeptics aren’t qualified to debunk.  Dr. Novella is a peer-reviewed neurologist who debunks on his own time.

If a person, or group of people, wish to spend time deconstructing the words, comments and images of others, or to try to debunk what they view as unreal, then that is certainly their option in life. I personally do not find that it would be very personally satisfying. In my mind, such efforts are, at the very least, a waste of valuable time and at the worst, hurtful. What good can come of it?

This is just a hobby.  I enjoy science, and I have a fantasy-prone personality that skepticism helps me temper.  Seeking the truth has helped me be less gullible, to change my stance on persuasive conspiracies and pseudosciences, and it has given me a renewed interest in science.  Surely that isn’t a bad thing, Mr. Ad Hominem.

If the Morgellons community TRULY was delusional, then a debunking site would not convince them not to be delusional.  Since that will not happen, then what good can come from the debunking site?

People might not be afraid of a mysterious contagious illness that doesn’t exist?

I’ll stop there.  He goes on to point out that skeptics are good debaters, and that our argumentative skills can be used to prove anything correct.  He fails to realize that we are using the scientists own research and methodologies to prove our points.  We are supposed to be fighting on the same side… science and reasoning.  Granted, what I do is more opinion-oriented and there are debates involved, but this site is meant to complement the work done by legitimate scientists.

And again, if I’ve seriously erred, I will quickly correct myself and apologize.  I’m not a scientist, and I don’t claim to be.  I do enjoy a good debate and sticking up for logic and scientific inquiry… even when those very scientists seem offended by my existence.

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Responses

  1. I agree.

    I’ll also add that what she said simply isn’t true. Besides the fact that a pubmed search for Morgellons doesn’t offer anything compelling to support the existence of the disaease, it also shows the following article, published in a peer reviewed academic journal:

    Morgellons: a rapport enhancing term for delusions of parasitosis.

    What is that if not a debunking? Take away the pejorative implication that the author puts on the word and debunking is just disagreeing with someone’s position and explaining why. If his impression of people who disagree with her is a shrill internet warrior who rains on people’s parade for the fun of it, he’s sorely mistaken. Sure those people exist, but to paint all people who disagree with him with such a broad brush is irresponsible.

    Your points are the most important in the end though- arguments stand and fall on their merits, not on the character/position/status of the person making the claim. This is one big fat elitist ad hominem.

  2. Boy did you ever seriously err!

    Because you neglected to point out the actual argumentative error this bozo makes in the following: “If the Morgellons community TRULY was delusional, then a debunking site would not convince them not to be delusional.”

    That’s the fallacy of equivocation: Morgellons community vs. Morgellons sufferer

    While the skeptic who wonders if the sufferer is merely delusional has no hope of rationally convincing them that they ARE delusional (because they are, uh, CRAZY), that same problem does not obtain for the community. The Morgellons community (those who are interested in, support or advocate Morgellons research) are not themselves delusional (in the clinical sense that the skeptic worries might be true of the sufferer).

    So, it is no hopeless endeavor to try to convince the COMMUNITY of the thin-ness of the Morgellons theory. Except in those cases where the member of the COMMUNITY is actually delusional. But those aren’t the only members.

    Shame on you Tick Tock. You missed a perfectly good technical attack on the bozo.

    :}

    But you are also correct that the debunking websites are not just there to preach to the Morgellons choir; they are also there to inform or help the casual, fence-sitting, amorphously opinioned observer. The people who are not themselves advocates or skeptics. And that’s a pretty significant project, and well worth the effort of at least putting up a website. And that, Mr. Bozo, is what good can come of the debunking site. Take off the myopia-prescription glasses and see that maybe: No one is talking to you.

  3. I’m not certain that the community isn’t delusional, too, same as the patients. Nobody in their right mind would be doing what they’re doing, which is preying upon the mentally ill. That’s criminal.

  4. Some facts: Just the reports that have been translated into English, and just the reports that someone dug out of old files. There must be many more unpublished, untranslated, thrown out, or stored unread.

    http://collembolareferences.blogspot.com:80/

  5. After reading all those old DOP case studies in the above URL, notice the statement reinforcing the patients’ beliefs at the bottom of the page:

    “Throughout history most scientific discoveries or advances have almost always been met with resistance, I suppose if I was a entomologist I would be resistant to the concept of collembola infesting humans too, considering the fact that the scientific and medical communitites have been responsible for incorrectly diagnosing people as delusional for over a century.”

  6. Smileykins, that’s the classic crank attack suggesting anyone who is disbelieved is equivalent to the paradigm-breakers of the past. The difference is people who have scientific discoveries actually have data. Morgellons sufferers do not.

    Collembola are ubiquitous organisms. They are present in dirt pretty much all over the world and are probably the single most common arthropod in existence. They also lack mandibles, and have no capacity to digest proteins like collagen found in human skin. They help break down plant matter in soil. The idea they parasitize humans is idiotic. Further, the more logical explanation for their presence in DP sores is simple. Dirty fingernails.

  7. I realize that sounded like an attack, I’m sorry. I’m picking on the argument, not you.

  8. Thank you, Mark H., but no apology was necessary. I believe that history repeats itself when people don’t learn from it. Unless kerelian returns and explains her comment, I’m left assuming that there’s a valid reason she appears to believe that Delusional Parasitosis (as many of the Morgellons’ patients have, repeatedly, been diagnosed with) is caused by Collembola.

  9. […] CDC is spending a year studying the likely fabricated mysterious fiber disease Morgellons. Why wait for the government to disprove “unexplained dermopathy” when there are […]

  10. […] The CDC is spending a year studying the likely fabricated mysterious fiber disease Morgellons. Why wait for the government to disprove unexplained dermopathy when there are actual frightening […]

  11. I’m posting this for Angie, who put this comment on a non-relevant page. Here it is…

    My skin disorder (Morgellons) of 17 years is not “fabricated”. In fact, my mother and I contracted this in the same afternoon on the rare occassion of a visit with eachother. (She is since deceased). The reports you’re seeing (most anyway) are true.
    I’ve seen 17 doctors, and had scores of different diagnoses, tests, and treatments. The condition persists. I guess it’s not actually killing me, since I’ve had it since 1991. So maybe you’re right, there are other more important things to investigate–unless one of your kids was to get it, then I think you might change that opinion. Angie

  12. Who ever the debunkers are….what do you think you will win in this fight. There are lives in the balance here, the debunkers are mean and unhumanitarian, there are so many Doctors out there working on helping these sufferers as we speak.
    Please can you just be nice. Since my Article with Barbara Minton came out at http://www.healhnews.com I have had England, the UK, China, Australia, Ireland and just about every person in the state. Michael at Morgellons watch emailed me last evening and said,”I just want to find out what this is.”What can I do Trisha, I will do anything”
    Look at Toluene toxicity my friend these people are heavy metaled and meanwhile you are fighting over something does exist. I have so Many good doctors stepping up to the plate, if this didn’t exist then I ask you…Why are Scientists and Doctors and the Alternative Branch of the National Instutite of Medicine, very concerned.
    Why are debunkers out there saying these people are crazy, they are very ill.
    Smileykins, there is a very special place in “Hell” although I assume your mean comments make your life hell on earth.
    Who is Paying you off and why are you wasting time on this if you don not believe this.
    Just go an crawl under the perverbial rock that you crawled out from under and go away. Last email to ask you to please let this go and knock it off.
    Sincerely,
    Trisha Springstead RN

  13. I haven’t explored the “morgellons” issue for some time. Upon seeing Trish Springstead’s message to me, above, one would think that I’d done something to damage her business. (I hadn’t even posted on this blog for nearly a year when she’d made those comments.)

    Having seen delusional parasitosis come out of the closet as it has, (along with the mix of other hard to treat disorders), thanks to the advent of “morgellons disease”, the only thing more disturbing is the way such patients are preyed upon by all these “caring” charlatans. I care, because it’s wrong.

    Well anyway, that one, above, had suggested that someone look into toulene toxicity. All I’ve ever known about the word, “toulene”, is that some people “huff” it to get high and that it causes brain damage. Looking into it, as suggested, directly made me develop the assumption that somebody (ahem) is preying upon a particular subset of “morgellons disease” patients that have done too much toulene huffing. I doubt that was her intention, but that’s certainly all I can conclude.

    emedicine’s article on toulene toxicity:

    <a href="http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/818939-overview"http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/818939-overview

  14. Also look at Mercury toxicity. I do think people need to research Mr Common Sense a mundane approach.
    We just won an SSDI case in Florida through John Weil
    The judge said morgellons 3 times. My friend with this recieved back pay from onset of symptoms to 2006 and Medicare Retroactive, not medicade.
    She has never had a delusional moment in her life and is getting well with Trisha in florida.
    The reports are becoming overwhelming and in the thousands from all over the world.
    I think this should be renamed “Hypertoxicity Syndrome” and ditch the Morgellons name.

  15. You are part of the problem. I wish i knew your name so I could sue you! Idiot!
    If you don’t know what you are talking about, don’t talk.
    There are people suffering. Hopefully you or someone you love will get the disease and then you can see how it feels, jerk!

  16. I am Sure this patient did this to herself. Her face was almost rotted off. Spectrum Graphs done and we ID’d the bugs, Who ever debunks this disease and says it is not real should get it and just see how bad it is.
    PS http://www.parasitetesting.com NCS syndrome and he has 50 case studies.

  17. This post is nearly 3 years old, the alleged “disease” has been disproven repeatedly, and people are STILL claiming they have it.  I am really enjoying how all of us reasonable, calm,
     and scientifically literate “debunkers” are not even responding to the dim bulbs in this post any more. I guess we all know that we can’t argue with people who are incapable of critical introspection, who base their beliefs on emotion rather than logic. I didn’t post just to be to be a mean old “debunker” though. If you guys want a laugh, check out the link that “Sistercommonsense” , who posted above me offered as “evidence” of how real this “disease” is by showing this “legitimate” organization that takes it so seriously.  It’s called The “Parasitology Center, Inc.”  Wow. That sounds all sciencey & stuff. Look, they have a picture of a microscope right there on the home page! That’s pretty sciencey too! These guys are legit! They’re listing the same symptoms that most hysterical self-diagnosers have, and they sell “test kits” that you do at home to confirm the presence or absence (yeah, like THAT’S gonna happen) of parasites, bacteria, worms, and all the other stuff folks decide they’re infected with. Of course, they ALSO sell a superfruit, high anti-oxidant juice and all our favorite HOMEOPATHIC MEDICINE!!! She honestly offered that obvious scam as “legitimate” evidence. It helps to show how these people end up fooling themselves into believing their stress symptoms have to be caused by some infection. These people are scientifically illiterate, historically oblivious, and culturally unaware, that BS websites like that one appear legitimate to them.  This “Parasitology” company really needs to be brought to the attention of the rational community. They’re feeding on ignorance, which I don’t really care about; but they just lend an illusion of legitimacy to people who don’t know any better. I know these self diagnosers well. An ex-girfriend
    of mine was one, and her irrational illnesses, allergies, and sensitivities were soul-draining. Thankfully we didn’t have kids. Unchecked psychosomatic disorders not only destroy families, but the mothers (why are the majority of them American moms?) hysteria spills into her kids. That’s why we have “peanut free zones” in schools. That’s why we have so many over-medicated, over-supervised, over-protected, fragile children today. Anyway, thanks for your writing. We can’t change many minds, but we can support each other. 

  18. Yeah, I noticed the same thing with the naturalnews website too. There are tons of ads for homeopathic remedies and “cures” all over the place. I guess if you subscribe to one version of woo, you’re susceptible to all other forms as well.

    By the way, I found this site in my research on chemtrails. There are actually people who think morgellons fibers are being released into the air by jets (it was in an arcticle on aircrap.org). I remembered something familiar about morgellons in that Mark Crislip talked about it on QuackCast, so I decided to look further and ended up here.


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