Morgellons is not Psychosomatic in nature, yet many healthcare providers choose to approach treating it this way. It’s difficult to imagine in the 21st century, and after multiple studies which demonstrate an infectious etiology, Morgellons patients would be consigned to psychiatric treatment. So how does something like this happen?
What is psychosomatic illness?
Soma is Greek, meaning “body” and psychos is derived from psukhē which roughly translates to mean “breath, soul, mind”. As the combined term implies, psychosomatic is a physical condition caused or made worse by afflictions of the mind. Over the recent centuries, Psychodermatology has become a standard practice of medicine in which an individuals’ mental condition is regarded as the best path to achieve dermatological health. Many practitioners claim success…
Why would Morgellons be considered psychosomatic?
This single question could likely be the catalyst for a microbial revolution inside establishment medicine. There are two trains of thought regarding the Morgellons affliction. One side states that Morgellons is a condition where bacteria infect skin cells and cause them to grow collagenous fibers which break through to the surface resulting in ulcerations.
Another side suggests that Morgellons is a delusional state, the ulcerations are in fact lacerations and that the patients are harming themselves out of desperation, or perhaps they are simply exploiting the Morgellons phrase for attention. They claim that patients are obsessed with the worsening state of their skin and are wrapped up in a frenzy of internet self help groups. The most important thing to note of this view on Morgellons is the stop-gap or safety measure as it may be thought of, that rules out the infected group of patients from the mentally ill. That exclusion criteria is the presence of any pathogen that would cause the patients symptoms.
In order to diagnose primary DI, true parasitic infestation, as well as coexisting psychiatric or organic conditions, should be excluded. Initial assessments should include a mental state examination, full blood count and chemistry panel, thyroid-function test, urinalysis, and urine toxicology. Other investigations for consideration include: B12/folate, computed tomography brain scan, and microbiology of tissue samples. Psychiatry and dermatology should be consulted if indicated. Delusional infestation: are you being bugged?
Surely the utmost attention is reserved for preventing wrongful treatment and medication stemming from misdiagnosis?
In the case of Morgellons, the symptoms are actually so strange and abnormal that they are often excluded and dismissed as planted material. But how could patients plant fibers produced of human collagen on themselves? Of perhaps greater concern, why didn’t the FBI crimelab in Tulsa have any of these supposedly man-made collagenous threads in its database of all known fibers? If the patients bought those fibers to plant they would surely be included in that database. Where are patients getting these fibers and how are they getting them underneath their skin?
How can bacteria make fibers?
Both sides have science to demonstrate their hypothesis, but only the filamentous borrelial dermatitis studies address the distinctive physical manifestation of bacterial infection that adequately explains the Morgellons condition. So well do these studies demonstrate these facts that they are being repeated in other research facilities across the world.
The present study demonstrates Morgellons filaments that clearly originate from a layer of pavement epithelial cells visibly held together by desmosomes (Figure 2). The predominant cells found in pavement epithelial tissue are keratinocytes. We also noted MD fibers that clearly originate from the inner root sheaths of hair follicles (Figures 2-4), and keratinocytes are the predominant cell type in this tissue. Keratinocytes produce the biofiber keratin. A cross section of BDD filaments likewise demonstrates filament origin from cells beneath the stratum corneum (Figure 5), consistent with descriptions in the literature of growth from keratinocytes [14,19]. Thus MD filaments and BDD filaments appear to be similar in formation at the cellular level, both originating from keratinocytes in the stratum spinosum or stratum basale. MD differs from BDD, however, in that MD filaments appear to originate from follicular keratinocytes as well as epidermal keratinocytes. Both MD filaments and BDD filaments fluoresce in UV light (Figures 2-5). We have also shown for the first time that MD filaments contain keratin (Figure 6), and keratin staining was positive using a “pankeratin” monoclonal antibody but negative with a more restricted keratin ligand. This observation indicates that the fibers originate from specific tissues that require further characterization. Morgellons Disease: A Chemical and Light Microscopic Study
Further evidence was needed however to solidify a correlation with the bacteria:
Histological sections of MD dermatological tissue reacted with anti-Bb immunostain in 19/19 of the dermatological specimens submitted for histological examination. Motile Borrelia spirochetes were cultured in medium inoculated with skin scrapings from 4 patients, thus demonstrating that Borrelia spirochetes in MD lesions are viable. Borrelia spirochetes were also detected in blood cultures from some MD patients in our study, confirming systemic Lyme borreliosis. Spirochetes characterized as strains of Borrelia were detected by PCR and/or in situ DNA hybridization in tissue or culture specimens from 24/25 patients; 15 of these patients had Borrelia gene products detected in dermatological specimens and/or skin cultures taken from MD lesions, and DNA amplicons from 14 patients were sequenced and confirmed to be Borrelia strains. Vaginal secretions from four patients were cultured, and three isolates were identified as Borrelia strains by PCR and in situ DNA hybridization. Exploring the association between Morgellons disease and Lyme disease: identification of Borrelia burgdorferi in Morgellons disease patients
Correlation achieved, but where’s the missing piece? Recent research may shed some light on the phenomenon where Borrelia bacteria stimulate collagen production to achieve Morgellons symptoms:
Both Borrelia species BB and BA are associated with similar morphologic changes. However, the role of the genospecies-specific immune response has not been studied in detail. In the recent past, human dermal fibroblasts co-cultured with the three main B. burgdorferi sensu lato species showed a homogenous inflammatory gene profile with similar transcriptional profiles and no species-specific fingerprint of transcriptional changes in fibroblasts, including a common core of chemokines/cytokines and interferon-related genes .
We found a considerable upregulation of TGF-β mRNA synthesis in fibroblasts co-cultured with BA, resulting in a fourfold increase of collagen type I mRNA and a 1.8-fold increase after exposure to BB compared to control fibroblasts.
The distribution of collagens I and III in the skin varies in the different skin layers with substantial differences in expression of mRNA for type I and III procollagen . In morphea, fibroblast cell lines produced increased amounts of type I and type III collagens, but the ratios of type I and type III collagens remained relatively unchanged in all the cultures, suggesting that they have undergone a coordinated activation of collagen synthesis at transcriptional level . Co-culture of human fibroblasts and Borrelia burgdorferi enhances collagen and growth factor mRNA
Causation? Many would argue it’s definitive at this point.
Morgellons is not Psychosomatic
Morgellons is now a condition that can be ruled out towards diagnosis, an appropriate diagnosis that doesn’t medicate the symptoms while neglecting the cause. But can mental illness correlate with Morgellons disease? In fact, Borrelia bacteria has been demonstrated to cause the same mental illnesses many Morgellons patients simultaneously experience along with their physical symptoms:
Patients with late-stage Lyme disease may present with a variety of neurological and psychiatric problems, ranging from mild to severe: memory impairment or loss (“brain fog”), dyslexia and word-finding problems, visual/spatial processing impairment (trouble finding things, getting lost), slowed processing of information, psychosis, seizures, violent behavior, irritability, anxiety, depression, panic attacks, rapid mood swings that may mimic bipolarity (mania/depression), obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), sleep disorders , ADD/ADHD-like syndrome, autism-like syndrome. The Connection Between Lyme Disease and Psychiatric Disorders
Asking a Morgellons patient to trust a psychiatrist or psychotherapist after being repeatedly misdiagnosed is likely outside the boundaries of their comfort zone. But as Morgellons patients’ physical symptoms are addressed in an appropriate manner being guided by their health care provider, the patient may decide for themselves to engage in this beneficial resource. Surely the years of ostracism, neglect and consistent mischaracterization is something we’d all feel better getting off our chest… someday.