CDC Reports Unexplained Dermopathy Not Infectious

morgellonsA possible cluster of cases in which patients reported cloth fiber emerging from the skin in Northern California does not appear to be infectious, a CDC team said.

The unexplained condition, now being called Morgellons, seems to have no bacterial, viral, environmental, or parasitic explanation, reported Mark L Eberhard of the CDC in Atlanta, and colleagues.

Although the cause for the condition remains unknown, neuropsychiatric problems, solvent exposure, and drug use were a common trend among the cases. 

Patients reported fiber or solid materials emerging from itchy, slow healing wounds which produced tingling, insect-like sensations. 

Cotton fibers were found to be the most common material within the lesions, but the fibers were “entrapped in purulent crust or scabs, suggesting the materials were from environmental sources (e.g., clothing) or possibly artifacts introduced at the time of specimen collection and processing.”

Multisystem complaints were common among patients, with 70% reporting chronic fatigue and 54% reporting poor overall health.  Drugs were present in hair samples of 50% of patients, and 78% reported solvent use (paint thinner, charcoal lighter fluid) for hobbies and other activities. 

Lesions varied visually, presenting as papules, scars, plaques, and patches, most commonly crusted, some inflamed, and "most consistent with arthropod bites or chronic excoriations," researchers wrote.

  "We were not able to conclude based on this study whether this unexplained dermopathy represents a new condition, as has been proposed by those who use the term Morgellons, or wider recognition of an existing condition such as delusional infestation, with which it shares a number of clinical and epidemiologic features," the group concluded.

-Michael Potts


Pearson ML , Selby JV , Katz KA, et al.  Clinical, epidemiologic, histopathologic and molecular features of an unexplained dermopathy. PLoS ONE 2012.7(1): e29908. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0029908