I thought -- rather unexpectedly -- that a young graduate student working with Dr. Eva Sapi presented some ground-breaking results from her research looking into Morgellons disease. As she first pointed out, the disease is discounted by mainstream medicine and the CDC who call it delusional parasitosis. The mainstream belief in short is that patients with this illness are not physically sick but rather suffer from a psychiatric ailment. The young student (I apologize that I cannot recall her name) said her research delved into the Lyme-Morgellons connection. Essentially "scab" material obtained from patients suffering with the disease, some of whom were sero-positive for Lyme disease, most of whom were not, was ground up and analyzed via molecular biology techniques looking for the presence of Lyme DNA. In all cases Lyme, B. burdorferi was found to be present. Specifically Bb sensu stricto, the North American version of the disease was present in samples taken from each patient diagnosed with Morgellons disease. In some cases, surprisingly, H. pylori, the bacteria associated with stomach ulcers and other related conditions was also found.
Perhaps of even greater significance was the finding that normal skin flora were essentially absent except for sparse S. epidermitis.
In some corners Morgellons was already known to be Lyme associated (not previously proved) but connected to some yet undiscovered pathogen(s). The nature of the peculiar fibers has not yet been determined. The absence of other, usual bacteria in the affected skin would seem to indicate that another organism was secreting an antibiotic substance capable of eradicating normal skin bacteria. Another possibility is that another organism, whose DNA is unknown, assumes the niche inhabited by normal skin flora. The molecular techniques used in the study would not uncover fungal/mold or protozoal DNA.
Organisms that produce powerful antibiotics typically belong to the mold family as seen with penicillin. Anecdotally, there is evidence that the disease responds to agents used to kill protozoa, not mold. The mystery remains.
What I think is clear is that Morgellons is linked to Lyme infection in the skin; that is a distinct disease, not another presentation of Lyme like erythema migrans; that it is not a tick-borne co-infection; that although strange and mysterious, is not a disease from outer space as some have suggested; and most importantly, is not a delusion or hallucination on the part of the sufferer and/or treating physician.
One can only hope that these findings will be replicated in other research and put before authorities like the CDC who will then be forced to take this disease seriously, and perhaps Lyme as well (wishful thinking).
So we have one important piece of the puzzle, given to us (or at least me) unexpectedly, in a rather poorly attended seminar, from a young, somewhat diffident (and brilliant) graduate student, while most attendees were in another seminar.
OK - the case is not closed. But we have a piece of the puzzle. This research will be published in a peer reviewed journal (probably PLOS) and this is very exciting news.