Study: Morgellons likely a delusion

May 25, 2011

People who say they’ve experienced skin eruptions involving objects such bugs, worms, eggs and fibers - a condition some label Morgellons disease - generally register a clean bill of health following a medical exam, HealthDay News and Reuters Health report.

Rochester, Minn. - People who say they’ve experienced skin eruptions involving objects such bugs, worms, eggs and fibers - a condition some label Morgellons disease - generally register a clean bill of health following a medical exam, HealthDay News and Reuters Health report.

In a study headed by Mayo Clinic dermatology professor Mark D. Davis, M.D., researchers tested skin samples of 108 patients convinced that bugs, worms or germs had invaded their skin. In all but one case, the tests turned up no sign of possible infestation, leading the investigators to conclude that the patients were suffering from delusional parasitosis.

In the lone case that the researchers concluded was of non-psychological pathology, the skin sample revealed an insect with infestation potential – a pubic louse.

In cases of what some call delusional infestation, “Patients often complain that the physician isn’t examining their skin closely enough to see the infesting organisms,” Dr. Davis told Reuters Health in an email. “This study indicates that even when skin biopsies are obtained and specimens of the organisms brought by the patients are carefully examined, there is no objective evidence of skin infestation.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has been researching delusional infestation, which it calls “unexplained dermopathy.” Reuters Health quotes a CDC spokesperson as saying, “It is an unexplained and debilitating illness of unknown cause.”

Dr. Davis told Reuters Health that even in view of the study’s findings, it is still important for doctors to take a patient’s history and do a physical exam if they suspect delusional infestation but aren’t positive. The study was published online May 16 in Archives of Dermatology.