Does Morgellons Disease Really Exist Outside of the Imagination? Is There Any Proof or Evidence? Is There a Cure?
A hard core skeptic in the pest control industry becomes a firm believer...
I originally learned of Morgellons Disease when I opened a store to sell organic pesticides for lawns, gardens and livestock. Little did I know, the natural products I carried were in high demand for those who suffer from all types of parasites affecting human skin. At first, the calls and e-mails from people around the world annoyed me. I strongly preferred to deal with livestock farmers and pet groomers who ordered products by the case. There was no profit in shipping small bottles, especially overseas. I got burned on several orders and decided I wouldn’t deal with “mite people” anymore.
My resolve didn’t last long. I received a phone call from a homeless man who had been battling some type of mystery mite for three years. He was on the verge of suicide. I ended up sending more than $100 worth of free products to a homeless shelter. As I hung up the phone, my husband shouted at me from the next room: “Sucker!” Even then, he knew that I had become ultra sensitive to a topic that I’d frowned upon in the past.
The stories and phone calls continued to haunt me to the point where I couldn’t sleep at night. A number of these “mystery mite” victims were battling other ailments such as cancer, diabetes, severe allergies, Lupus and Lyme Disease. Their heart-wrenching stories were hard to ignore. I quickly learned that people with compromised immune systems are more susceptible to contracting certain types of parasites that have trouble thriving on healthy bodies. I was heartbroken to discover that traditional chemicals made these people ill or caused serious reactions, including infection. I had to do something. But what? I’m no doctor or entomologist. I’m an old school newspaper reporter with a journalism degree covered in dust.
It soon became clear that my only weapon in this battle was research. I had written more than 100 newspaper articles in the past. I decided I would write articles again, only this time, I would write about mites. I would educate myself about every mite or parasite that could harm people so that I might be a more sensitive and informed business owner.
Through research, I’ve discovered one important fact that eclipses all others: There’s a lot of misinformation on the internet! Conflicting opinions are a dime a dozen, and it can be difficult to wade through the evidence. Here are the core facts surrounding the Morgellon’s debate:
- Morgellon’s Disease is a proposed condition that resembles a parasite infestation of the skin. Victims may experience itching and crawling sensations, chronic fatigue, joint pain and sores that project fibers. In the medical community, Morgellon’s patients are thought to suffer from a mental disorder known as Delusional Parasitois. Most doctors believe the infestation is all in a patient’s mind, but that conclusion has been questioned by more than one expert.
- In a victorious moment for Morgellon’s victims, researchers at the Oklahoma State Department of Health took skin samples from 20 patients diagnosed with Delusional Parasitosis and found Collembola in 18 of the 20 patients. Collembola, also known as springtails, are primitive organisms defined as hexapods that feed upon mold in fertile soil. They are considered to be the most abundant macroscopic organism on earth.
- In an unrelated investigation conducted in Sweden, Dr. Frans Janssens and his colleague, Dr. Kenneth A. Christiansen, collected scores of reports regarding human springtail infestation from homeowners, doctors and pest control operators around the world, including many regions of the United States. Within the gray areas between casual testimony, scientific observation and concrete medical documentation, a startling picture emerged. Springtails are everywhere, and their presence in homes can coincide with mysterious itching and crawling sensations. The two researchers concluded that the topic of human springtail infestation deserves further scientific scrutiny.
- The Morgellon’s Research Foundation successfully lobbied members of congress and the U.S. Government’s Centers for Disease Control (CDC) to study the proposed condition. CDC researchers concluded that “no single underlying medical condition or infectious source was identified.”
- Critics of the study charged that the CDC purposely selected candidates from an unsuitable HMO database to build a sample population that would yield the type of results the government wanted to find. Morgellon’s advocates and supporters had hoped that the CDC would pull from a database of people identified by Morgellon’s experts who actively study the disease. Instead, the CDC pulled from a database of people diagnosed with “Delusional Parasitiosis” and “Unexplained Apparent Dermopathy.” A common thread among study participants was a history of drug abuse and psychiatric problems.
I wholeheartedly agree that the CDC selection process was unprofessional and outright offensive. It would’ve been just as easy to find a target population of Morgellon’s patients with no history of drug abuse or psychiatric disorders. Many productive members of society suffer from this condition. In some cases, entire families living within the same home are afflicted. Instead of studying Morgellon’s victims recommended by specialists most qualified to make the diagnosis, the CDC looked at a small target population of 115 people in Northern California. Worse yet, the candidates were recommended by a bunch of doctors who don’t believe the condition exists in the first place.
Because of the Oklahoma study, springtails are often linked to the Morgellon’s debate, but that connection has not been proven beyond a shadow of a doubt. Morgellon’s Disease is simply a condition in which the victim suspects some sort of chronic parasite infestation. Contrary to popular belief, not all Morgellon’s patients are obsessed with the idea that springtails have taken over their bodies. Many are simply struggling to find an explanation for their symptoms. In their quest for knowledge, they’ve considered everything from bird mites to scabies to nano worms. After speaking with more than a thousand people who suffer from various types of parasites, it’s my personal opinion that most folks who suffer from mysterious itching and crawling sensations are not crazy, even if only one person in the home is suffering. I’ll be happy to tell you why.
It’s an undisputed fact that people react differently to parasite bites. For example, I often receive calls from married couples who are battling visible bedbug infestations. In a typical scenario, the wife doesn’t understand why she is covered in bites when her husband’s skin remains clear. Is one side of the bed infested to a higher degree than the other? Are bedbugs more attracted to her particular blend of pheromones? Perhaps, but the truth is that bedbugs don’t need pheromones to find us. They are far more apt to detect our breath and body heat. The deeper issue is that one partner is simply more sensitive to parasite bites than the other. The lack of a visible allergic reaction doesn’t mean that one partner has never been bitten. The same is true of Morgellon’s. Just because only one person has become infested doesn’t mean others haven’t been exposed. It all comes down to an individual’s immune system and unique ability to fight off invaders. We certainly wouldn’t question why some folks are allergic to dust mites while others can live quite comfortably in an infested home. So why do we question Morgellon’s victims?
When dealing with parasite clients, the one thing that scares me most is the tendency of people to self-label and self-diagnose. In a typical scenario, a person suffering from mysterious crawling sensations for a few weeks declares that it’s probably Morgellons. Please allow me to scream this next statement from a mountaintop: MORGELLONS IS A CHRONIC, LONG-TERM CONDITION. If your battle with suspected parasites is relatively new, consider that there are plenty of common and treatable parasites that can produce mysterious itching, biting, stinging and crawling sensations. Before you go into panic mode, please ask yourself the following questions.
- Have you searched your home for abandoned bird nests? They can be found in gutters, attics, chimneys and window air conditioning units. When it comes to micro tiny infestations, bird mites are the most common parasites our clients must face. Consult our bird mite article for a deeper discussion of the signs and symptoms connected to bird mite infestation.
- Do you have pets? There are three types of mange mites that can affect humans. See our mange mite article for a deeper discussion of the symptoms connected to mange mite problems.
- Do you currently have rodents in the home? Do you often spot rodents on your property? Rodent mites are attracted to warm locations such as pipeline channels. They often enter through cracks and crevices around the foundation of a home. Advanced infestations generally involve indoor and outdoor treatment. See our rodent mite article for a deeper discussion of the symptoms connected to rodent mite problems.
- Is there a larger insect population in the home? Straw itch mites can live on insects that infest stored food and landscaping materials. Host insects are typically bugs that infest stored foods such as cockroaches, flour moths and various types of beetles. They can bite the same person thousands of times with no visible evidence.
If your infestation doesn’t appear to be connected to any of the issues outlined above, I may have to pose some difficult questions. Is your property plagued by mold issues or wet leaf litter? Do you live near a creek or sewage canal? Can you often smell mold in the air? If so, springtails could be an issue. Entomologists may not believe that springtails can infest humans, but my clients often insist otherwise. To be quite honest, I didn’t always believe them. As a proprietor of outdoor pesticides, I had learned to treat springtails as occasional crop pests. All of that changed when a young man contacted me after inheriting several houseplants from a relative. The jumping specks he described were accompanied by itching and crawling sensations that were consistent with other springtail accounts described on message boards across the internet. Several months later, a different client afflicted by crawling sensations used a microscope equipped with a camera to photograph springtail specimens collected from his bed. He didn’t feel as if he was deeply infested, but he was very concerned about his wife, who felt disturbing sensations under the skin.
Many years have passed since those early accounts forced me to reconsider my position on the springtail debate. I am now very sensitive to accounts of mold ridden basements and rotting bathroom floors accompanied by mysterious crawling or biting sensations. I firmly believe that some springtail cases are so chronic and resistant that pest control is a waste of time and resources. I’ve watched families go bankrupt attempting to rid their homes of black mold. Casual springtail infestations connected to houseplants or landscaping materials respond very well to organic fogging and spraying techniques. Springtail infestations connected to old homes with chronic mold issues behind walls do not. If you find your home infested by black mold, consult a mycologist before calling a pest control operator or attempting a do-it-yourself program. Obtain estimates from more than one mold removal specialist. Ask yourself if the cost of “saving” your home is worth the heartache and frustration.
It’s an undisputed fact that springtails can invade homes by the millions. It is also known that certain species are covered with bristles that can irritate humans who happen to come in contact with them. The issue that falls into dispute is the springtail’s ability to bite or burrow below the skin’s surface and infest humans chronically. A number of people in the holistic health community believe that springtails are attracted to individuals with an overgrowth of yeast in the skin. As a non physician, I cannot deliver a qualified verdict on this topic, but as a journalist, I am obligated to cover both sides of the debate. With more than 6,000 known species, it is certainly possible that different species behave in different ways. For example, it is known that some springtails are herbivores while others are carnivores. Some have mouth parts designed for biting, while others have mouth parts designed for sucking. Is it possible that certain species have mutated or evolved over time? For many, it’s a burning question.
Parasites are mysterious creatures that can be extremely difficult to diagnose and treat. I’ve talked to people infested by scabies who were brushed aside by more than one doctor before receiving a formal diagnosis. I’ve spoken with poultry farmers who have carried bird mites much longer than entomologists would consider possible. I’ve encountered wealthy clients with high end microscopes equipped with cameras. I’ve dealt with poor clients who can barely afford a roll of masking tape to capture skin samples. I’ve seen pictures of springtails collected from furniture and listened to accounts of bird mites infesting nostrils, ears and eyes. In the overwhelming majority of cases, my clients are quite articulate and well informed. They’ve hired more than one pest control company before making the decision to buy products online. They’ve visited doctors and analyzed their problems from every angle. Spend one week on my end of the telephone. It’s a real eye opener.
The fact that Morgellon’s victims have been brushed aside by the medical community is infuriating, to say the least. There’s a critical shortage of physicians and entomologists who are willing to research parasites, enter infested homes and study infested people. Soldiers in this battle risk personal infestation and persecution from the medical community. Dr. Randy Wymore, the main researcher connected to the Oklahoma study, has been discredited in articles across the internet, including those published on Wikipedia. I say leave the researchers alone and let them conquer territory others fear to tread. University entomologists who spend most of their time lecturing in classrooms are hardly qualified to criticize researchers who actively study human subjects. Dermatologists who spend most of their time treating acne and cosmetic issues are not exactly springtail experts. Twenty years from now, if history shows that Dr. Wymore was mistaken, he should at least be commended for leading a very complicated and dangerous expedition.
The medical community has been known to be wrong on more than one occasion. Five years ago, it was generally accepted that acne was caused by bacteria and hormones. New research suggests that gluten intolerance combined with overpopulation of the demodex mite are also key factors. For the last 60 years, doctors have warned us that saturated fats are bad for our health and lead to a host of frightening consequences such as elevated cholesterol levels, heart disease, obesity and Alzheimer’s disease. Today, the popular assertion is that certain saturated fats are quite healthy. Medium chain fatty acids, such as the acids found in coconut oil, are said to be a powerful weapon in the fight against parasites and lipid coated viruses, including HIV, herpes, influenza, pathogenic bacteria and certain forms of protozoa. Even Alzheimer’s disease is no match for this miracle oil! (View the research of Dr. Mary Newport.)
The psychiatric community has an equally strong tendency to re-evaluate past perceptions. In the 1950s and 1960s, many psychiatrists believed that homosexuality was a mental disorder. A number of drugs previously used to treat mental disorders have been deemed dangerous or taken off the market. In the last several years, hundreds of cases have been brought against pharmaceutical companies arising from deaths and injuries attributed to drugs used to treat psychiatric disorders. (Read more about litigation against pharmaceutical companies.)
My point is that the Morgellon’s debate deserves further study, like any other medical or psychiatric topic that has fallen under scrutiny in the last 50 years. No one, including a physician, has the right to call you a lunatic without a proper skin scraping and a thorough psychiatric evaluation. A poultry farmer entering a dermatologist’s office would be taken very seriously, even if a casual exam produced no evidence of bird mites clinging to his body. Likewise, a dog groomer would have no problem requesting a skin scraping to rule out mange mites. As a paying customer, you deserve the same level of service, even if you aren’t quite sure how you might’ve come in contact with a particular parasite in the first place. If you’ve suffered chronically, consult at least two dermatologists and collect at least two skin scrapings. Love yourself, and don’t go down without a fight. Understand that chronic doesn’t mean forever. I’ve spoken to many individuals who have survived chronic mystery mite infestations that were never diagnosed. A positive attitude is so very important at this critical juncture of your life. Chronic stress alters the immune system’s responses and adversely affects the digestive system, the reproductive system and the circulatory system. Now more than ever, you must will yourself to relax. Your ability to heal depends on it.
If you’ve been brushed aside by more than one doctor, try this little trick. Obtain a class schedule from your local university. Find an entomologist or biologist who works as a university professor. Show up after his last class of the day and ask very nicely if he’ll take a look at your skin sample under a microscope. Try not to be overbearing or insistent. If the first candidate refuses to help, go to another university. When all else fails, buy your own microscope! Inexpensive microscopes designed for students are much more advanced than they used to be. Many come equipped with cameras and advanced imaging software. It’s vital to put this technology into your hands because many mite problems are misdiagnosed. For example, there’s a specific type of mange mite that jumps and moves like a springtail. Identifying samples will help you develop a pest control agenda that matches your needs. For example, an individual afflicted by scabies wouldn’t need to practice extensive pest control measures because the scabies mite can’t live far from the human host.
If you’re confused about the circumstances surrounding a mystery mite infestation, I can teach you how to capture samples from the home. I don’t charge for consultations, and you don’t have to buy products. My greatest hope is to spread awareness and create an environment where mite victims are no longer shunned by doctors and dermatologists. The one thing I ask is that you don’t purchase products elsewhere and call me to ask how to use them. My average phone consultation lasts more than an hour. I’m not a rich person by any means. I must give the best of myself to those who value my time and input.
As you navigate the vast network of holistic medical advice available online, beware that much of the information is written by individuals who don’t actively study mite problems or deal with mite clients on a daily basis. I am extremely frightened by the drastic measures people take to treat their skin and environment. In the interest of personal safety, please consider the following health hazards.
- For parasite problems that affect genitalia, many websites in the holistic health community have suggested inserting borax tablets into the anus or vagina. I’m begging you not to do this without consulting a licensed physician. It’s not wise to disrupt the delicate balance of good and bad bacteria in these delicate regions. If you go too far, you could destroy your body’s natural ability to fight common infections. The same goes for undiluted essential oils such as tea tree, cedar, clove and eucalyptus. For gentle cleansing of intimate body parts, try a high quality soap made of seabuckthorn or coconut oil. Both are purported to fight parasites. Should you desire a stronger medical treatment, consult a physician.
- Avoid using apple cider vinegar when dealing with mold loving organisms. Mold loving creatures adore the smell of it. If you don’t believe me, try this standard old school pest control trick. When facing an infestation of fruit flies or fungus gnats, place a bowl of Apple Cider Vinegar on the counter. Fungus gnats will SWARM to the bowl in great numbers. If they happen to fall into the bowl, they’ll die. Unfortunately, most of them won’t go near the liquid. They’ll hang out and enjoy the fermented aroma for hours on end. If you sneak up very slowly with a bottle of hairspray, you can shoot large numbers of them down. The hairspray won’t kill them, but it’ll stick their wings together so they can’t fly. You can then smash them with a wet rag and wipe the counter clean. Get the picture? Apple cider vinegar leaves behind an aroma that attracts mold loving organisms. Insects that get a direct hit may die, but what about the scent left behind when the product dries? It’s never a good idea to introduce aromas which can attract more mold loving creatures to sprayed territory. The most effective natural pesticides contain essential oils. In addition to serving as contact killers, essential oils leave behind powerful aromas that repel insects. This is precisely why so many natural mosquito repellents are infused with cedar or lemon eucalyptus oil.
- If you’re ingesting large amounts of raw garlic to combat parasites internally, beware that it can thin the blood. Consult a physician before starting a long-term garlic regimin, especially if you’re taking Coumadin or blood thinners. Note that blood thinners should be discontinued before surgical procedures. If you’re looking for a natural supplement to help the immune system fight parasites, try organic tumeric or peppermint capsules. Note that internal peppermint treatments can aggravate heartburn. Excessive, long-term use of peppermint can cause G.E.R.D. Turmeric is generally safe and profoundly well researched. It also combats heartburn.
- Tea tree oil is a popular treatment for ocular rosacea and other eye conditions connected to the demodex mite, but I’m concerned by the number of people performing eyelid scrubs at home. Such procedures should be performed by a dermatologist. For a safer treatment that can be purchased at most local pharmacies without a prescription, try Rhoto-V Ice Drops. The menthol sensation will sting a bit at first, but the feeling will quickly dissipate. Should you desire a stronger eye treatment, ask your doctor for the same drops he would prescribe to a patient suffering from pink eye. Such drops contain antibiotics and medical grade boric acid.
- When treating the face for demodex mites, note that many essential oils can aggravate rosacea and cause swelling or red patches. Miticides containing tea tree, cedar or eucalyptus oil are wonderful for the body, but they may not be appropriate for sensitive facial skin. For the natural treatment of acne and rosacea, try a high quality soap made of seabuckthorn or coconut oil. For a deeper discussion of Rosacea and the demodex mite, consult our demodex page.
- For parasite problems that affect the entire home, do not fog air ducts with potent chemicals designed for use outdoors. I’ve received reports of entire families getting sick every time the heat is turned on. Use an organic fogging agent or hire a professional air duct cleaning company.
- For wide-area treatment of carpets and furniture, be sure to identify the active ingredient in your pest control formula. All chemicals will have an EPA classification. Use Google to find out if your target ingredient is classified as a “likely carcinogen” or a “known carcinogen.”
- Essential oil formulas such as our cedar product are generally classified as “low risk” pesticides. Still, it is imperative to wear a mask when using any type of fogging agent for pest control purposes, be it chemical or natural. If you have asthma, allergies or a suppressed immune system connected to chronic medical problems, consider leaving the home for a few days after chemical or natural fog treatment.
- Avoid drowning your sorrows in beer. It contains yeast. When you drink beer containing live yeast, it can remain live in the digestive system and wreak havoc on the immune system. ALL alcoholic beverages have the ability to stimulate candida yeast infections, but beer in particular should be avoided due to the high yeast content and the large amount that most drinkers consume. Given that experts in the hollistic community have often theorized that mites are attracted to individuals who harbor too much yeast in their bodies, it’s a good practice to avoid alcohol altogether.
- Last but certainly not least, avoid eating bread and pasta. I know this is easier said than done. When caught in the grip of depression, a slice of homemade bread or a nice plate of pasta might be the only thing you can look forward to at the end of the day. Processed sugars should be avoided as well. Yeast cells feed upon sugar to multiply. Vast numbers of mite victims have reported feeling much better after removing the carbohydrates from their diets.
For those who still believe that springtails are causing unexplained skin irritations, my best advice is to inspect your home for mold issues. Springtails tend to congregate in moist places where there may be mold or decaying organic matter to feed upon. For example, if you see yellow or brown patches on the ceiling where rain seeped through the roof and didn’t quite make it into the home, you could be infested with mold. If you have hard wood floors with cracks and crevices that allow moisture to seep down into the sub floor, there could be mold issues underfoot. If you enjoy steam cleaning carpets on a regular basis, note that steam machines can soak carpeting down to the padding. Even if your carpeting feels dry to the touch, there could be mold and moisture issues beneath the surface.
When it comes to killing tiny organisms within the skin and home, there are a variety of things you can do without purchasing products from me or anyone else on the internet. Here’s a rundown.
Free Advice for Eliminating Mites and Springtails
- A number of customers have found springtails in the home after bringing new landscaping materials onto their property. Springtails infest mulch by the millions, and they love to make their way into cracks and crevices around basement windows. If you see tiny jumping specks in the basement, pour scalding hot water on the mulch outside the basement window. Fill up your kettle and go to town! I could recommend an organic concentrate to kill vast numbers of springtails in your yard, but it’s particularly important to treat the landscaping materials that touch the perimeter of your home. Total yard treatment is for people who want to kill the fleas, ticks and mites that latch onto pets. It’s cheaper than going to the vet for flea treatments.
- I’ve received reports of springtails thriving under kitchen sinks. If this is happening to you, grab a bottle of Windex and blast those suckers! Do this as often as you like, but understand that such products don’t have residual effects that kill eggs and discourage new insects from entering sprayed territory. Be sure not to treat the entire home with ammonia on a large scale. It can burn your lungs and cause long-term damage that doctors can’t fix. If your infestation is advanced and total home fumigation is your goal, purchase a fog machine with an organic fogging solution. It’s a lot cheaper than hiring a pest control operator, and you can use it anytime for repeat treatments without signing a contract. If you live in a wooded area loaded with insects that tend to make their way into your home, the machine will pay for itself ten times over.
- Remove all potted plants from your home! Many springtail infestations are introduced via potting soil.
- Discard all wreaths and floral arrangements made of dried flowers. Springtails love to feed upon dead organic material. Their populations grow out of control when leaf litter is allowed to build up around the home. Don’t assume that wreaths made of dried eucalyptus are safe. All dried floral arrangements lose their aroma at some point. I’ve seen moths nest and multiply inside dried eucalyptus arrangements.
Never fog with chemicals! In February of 2011, USA Today ran an article titled “Exposure to Pesticides in Womb Linked to Learning Disabilities.” The study focused on peremethrin, a chemical commonly used to battle household pests. As disturbing as this sounds, the topic is nothing new. Scores of scientific studies have linked chemical pesticides to neurological disorders, breast cancer and birth defects in children living near farms where chemicals are sprayed. This isn’t hype. It’s not fiction. There are solid reasons why many shoppers are willing to spend more money for organically grown vegetables. Chemicals are bad news, especially for children, the elderly and people with suppressed immune systems.
- When it comes to skin treatments, try an organic mosquito repellent made of lemon eucalyptus. Lemony oils are wonderful miticides; however, they will stain your pillows and bedding. Folks end up buying the products we sell because they need several gallons of pest control fluid to fumigate homes or treat carpets and furniture without staining. But honestly, if a small bottle of mite repellent is what you’re looking for, stop at your local drugstore.
- Powdered sulfur can be used as a gentle mite killing additive for skin. You can purchase it at many apothecary shops online and mix it into fragrance free hypoallergenic skin lotion. Sulfur is the main ingredient in many prescription acne medications. It kills the demodex mites that cause pimples, pustules and red patches. It also kills scabies, though it’s not effective against their eggs.
- If you’ve been using permethrin treatments that simply aren’t working, switch to something organic. All insects have an uncanny ability to develop immunity to chemical pesticides. That’s the main reason why chemicals haven’t solved the bedbug epidemic. They aren’t terribly effective against parasites.
- Remember that all essential oils are not created equal. Many essential oils have antiseptic properties and skin softening abilities, but it doesn’t mean they are superior mite killers. Some of strongest essential oils associated with pest control include cedar oil, tea tree oil, clove oil and eucalyptus oil. Most of these oils are widely available in tiny bottles that sell for under ten dollars. The supreme advantage of cedar oil is that it can be ordered by the gallon for far less money. It’s not just a skin treatment; it’s a total home and yard solution. Tea tree oil is harvested in Australia. To obtain a gallon of it would be insanely expensive. Clove oil is powerful but toxic to humans.
We don’t sell typical cosmetic grade oils. Our cedar oil is fractionated and filtered to remove toxins and impurities. Unlike other essential oils sold for beauty or pest control purposes, it won’t stain couches or bedding. It’s that light and that pure. Beyond that, it contains a natural carrier made of melted quartz rock to amplify the effects of cedar oil without compromising safety. Many organic pest control formulas use cheap “carrier” oils to deliver insect killing ingredients. We believe that if a carrier agent doesn’t enhance the overall solution, it should not be used to dilute the formula.