New Study Highlights Role of Lyme Disease in Bizarre Skin Disorder

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The Charles E. Holman Morgellons Disease Foundation supports research to unravel the mystery of Morgellons Disease.

Multicolored fibers embedded in skin callus of Morgellons patient with persistant Lyme infection.

“Our findings suggest that infection with the Lyme spirochete may persist in Morgellons patients despite supposedly adequate antibiotic therapy,” said Middelveen, lead author of the published study.

Morgellons disease is a bizarre condition that features vividly colored filaments in skin lesions. The filaments are composed of human proteins that appear to proliferate in response to infection with the causative agent of Lyme disease, Borrelia burgdorferi. This organism is a type of corkscrew-shaped bacteria called a spirochete (pronounced spiro’keet) that is related to the agent of syphilis. A new study conducted by an international team of researchers found viable Borrelia spirochetes in cultures taken from three Morgellons patients who had been treated with recommended doses of antibiotics.

The study team included Marianne Middelveen, a veterinary microbiologist from Canada, molecular biologists Jennie Burke and Agustin Franco from Australia, molecular biologists Eva Sapi and Katherine Filush from Connecticut, and nurse practitioner Melissa Fesler and internist Raphael Stricker from California. The study was published in the open access journal Healthcare (Basel) ( “Our findings suggest that infection with the Lyme spirochete may persist in Morgellons patients despite supposedly adequate antibiotic therapy,” said Middelveen, lead author of the published study.

The study team used sophisticated techniques to detect and identify microorganisms in cultures taken from research subjects. Twelve Lyme patients had positive cultures for Borrelia spirochetes, even if they were currently taking antibiotics. Three of the 12 subjects in the study had Morgellons disease symptoms. In contrast, asymptomatic control subjects with negative Lyme antibody tests had no evidence of the Lyme spirochete in their culture samples.

It is known that Morgellons disease occurs in about 6% of Lyme disease patients. The presence of the characteristic filaments seen in Morgellons patient specimens can be accompanied by stinging and crawling sensations. Some people may mistakenly believe the sensations are caused by a parasite. Lack of adequate understanding has led some medical practitioners to falsely believe that the disease is caused by delusional mental illness, resulting in heated debate among medical professionals.

Not only is the topic of Morgellons controversial, but Lyme disease is a controversial topic too. Persistent infection with the Lyme spirochete despite antibiotic therapy was recently demonstrated in monkeys. Despite this fact, some healthcare professionals maintain that recalcitrant infection is impossible in human beings. The new study has provided results that refute this view and corroborate the monkey study. “In the midst of all this controversy, the patients who suffer from this disorder are forgotten,” said Cindy Casey, director of the Charles E Holman Morgellons Disease Foundation based in Austin, TX. “It is imperative that we find a better way to treat the underlying cause of Morgellons disease.”

Dr. Stricker agrees with Casey: “Because of their obvious skin pathology, Morgellons patients provide a golden opportunity to find better ways to treat Lyme disease,” he said. “More research is desperately needed to help these patients with persistent skin lesions to get rid of their underlying infection.”

About the Charles E. Holman Morgellons Disease Foundation:
The Charles E. Holman Morgellons Disease Foundation, based in Austin, TX, is a 501(c) (3) nonprofit organization committed to advocacy and philanthropy in the battle against Morgellons disease. Director, Cindy Casey-Holman, RN, leads the foundation, named for her husband, Charles E. Holman, a pioneer in the fight against Morgellons disease. Currently there is no public funding and very limited private funding to support research for this disease, and the CEHMDF is the recognized authority and primary funding source for Morgellons disease medical/scientific research. Donations are tax deductible in the US. To learn more about Morgellons disease go to:

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