The mainstream media and the medical community at large view Morgellons as a delusional disorder. But research over the last decade has found that Morgellons disease symptoms are a manifestation of an underlying bacterial infection. The culprit, spirochetal bacteria in the Borellia genus, are known to cause disease in other mammals and are spread by blacklegged ticks.
If you have Morgellons symptoms, you may have suffered for years before finding a name for your illness. The Charles E. Holman Morgellons Disease Foundation is here to help answer your questions surrounding Morgellons disease and raise awareness for healing.
Through the remainder of this article, we’ll introduce how Morgellons symptoms spread through tick bites and how animals that contract the symptoms are cured. Then we’ll examine why people aren’t treated with known cures for the same symptoms, often being mislabeled with mental disorders instead.
How do you get a spirochetal infection?
Understanding Morgellons disease requires knowing how ticks spread bacteria. Spirochetal bacteria, named for their spiral-shaped appearance, are responsible for many diseases. Borrelia, a group of spirochetes, causes infectious diseases like Morgellons, relapsing fever, and Lyme disease and is primarily spread through blacklegged tick bites.
Ticks and disease
Ticks use unique sensory systems to detect the breath, body odor, body heat, and movement vibrations of animals. These adaptations allow the blacklegged tick to identify frequently used paths.
Along these paths, ticks climb to the tips of shrubs and grasses and wait for their next hosts with arms outstretched—a behavior called questing. When an animal brushes by, the tick climbs aboard.
Once on the host, ticks spend ten minutes to two hours looking for the right place to begin eating. Usually, ticks prefer moist, protected areas on the body that won’t be easily noticed, like the groin or ears.
Once a tick has found the perfect spot to eat, it grasps the host’s skin and cuts through the surface layers. Next, the tick inserts a feeding tube and secretes a cement-like substance to hold it in place while it dines.
While feeding, ticks excrete anesthetic laced saliva so that the host won’t be bothered by the feeding parasite. If the tick finds a well-sheltered spot, it can go unnoticed for its entire stay.
Ticks usually suck blood for several days. Once they’ve had their fill, they’ll fall off. The host may be none the wiser.
Problem is, ticks spread disease while they feed. If a host animal has a blood-borne illness, the tick ingests those germs during its meal. When the tick finds a new host, it then spreads those germs and illnesses through its saliva.
Blacklegged ticks seek a new host with every life stage. And since these ticks can live for three years, a single tick can spread disease through any number of animals—humans included.
Symptoms of tick-borne illness
In many cases, people who contract tick-borne illnesses may never know that a tick bit them, and symptoms of a tick bite may take days or weeks to appear.
If you like to go for adventures in tick-infested areas, take precautions to protect yourself from tick bites.
If you suspect you’ve experienced a tick bite, here are symptoms to watch for:
- Fever and chills
- Muscle aches and joint pain
- Extreme fatigue
- Erythema migrans rash—“bullseye” rash
Generally speaking, an erythema migrans rash is a tell-tale sign of a Lyme infection. About 30% to 80% of infected people develop a rash that starts at the site of a tick bite. The rash can take anywhere from a few days to an entire month to show up after the bite, so you wouldn’t know that a tick bit you until after the tick is long gone.
“Bullseye rashes,” or Erythema rashes, get their nickname because they gradually grow in a bullseye shape over several days and may be as large as 12 inches across. As the rash develops, it also clears, leaving a red mark in the center surrounded by a red rim along the outermost edge with clear skin in the middle. The rash is warm to the touch but isn’t itchy or painful.
Evidence suggests that Morgellons patients suffer from a form of chronic, systemic Lyme disease. When a person goes untreated for a tick bite leading to Lyme disease, the spirochetal infection can spread, causing symptoms in several different body systems and even leaving microscopic fibrous growths embedded in the skin and causing itchiness. Research also suggests that humans aren’t the only mammals to react to a Borrelia infection with lesions and fiber growth.
Borellia infections in other animals
As seen in Morgellons disease, extraordinary keratin fibers and ulcerating lesions aren’t unique to humans. These are well-known symptoms of spirochetal infections in domestic dogs and livestock.
Lyme disease in dogs
Our canine companions are susceptible to tick-borne illnesses too. Dogs with tick-borne diseases like canine Lyme experience many of the same symptoms as humans, including:
- General malaise
- Swollen lymph nodes
- Joint pain
- Swollen connective tissues
However, furry friends can’t speak up and tell us that they aren’t feeling well, so initial symptoms may go unnoticed by owners for weeks or even months. Once noticeable symptoms like lameness become apparent, the underlying spirochetal infection has spread throughout the dog’s body.
In 2016, researchers collected skin samples from nine dogs experiencing ulcerating lesions with unusual filament growth—strikingly similar to Morgellons disease. The dogs in question also had a history of tick exposure.
Skin samples were examined under a microscope and used for culture growth. Researchers visually confirmed spirochetes under magnification, and the cultures grew a species of Borrelia bacteria. Researchers did not find the presence of Borrelia species in the asymptomatic dogs that were used as controls. That hints that the bacteria isn’t found in healthy canines and may be responsible for illness in the afflicted dogs.
Through serological (blood plasma and antibody) testing, researchers found that most of the dogs had antibodies against Borrelia bacteria—which indicated that the animals’ immune systems in the study were fighting an ongoing infection. Again the control animals did not test positive for Borrelia antibodies and did not have an immunological history of the disease.
In this study, owners of the infected dogs tried several different treatments to heal their pets’ sores and alleviate symptoms. In almost every case, topical treatments failed. Antibiotic therapies that included doxycycline were successful.
Bovine digital dermatitis
Since 1994, bovine digital dermatitis (BDD) has been a widespread and well-documented illness affecting dairy cattle in the midwestern United States. Characterized by open sores and long filaments, this disease can cause lameness, weight loss, a decrease in milk production, and even death in dairy cattle. The condition is highly contagious and can quickly spread through an entire herd, with devastating financial impacts for farmers.
Because of BDD’s financial strain on the entire dairy industry, researchers quickly identified spirochetal infections as a primary cause. Over the last 20 years, antibiotic sprays and foot washes have been widely accepted treatments for infected animals.
And yet antibiotic treatment for people with Morgellons still isn’t widely accepted. If you suffer from Morgellons disease symptoms and have been unable to find help, locate a doctor who understands now.
Your donation saves lives
Canine companions receive antibiotic treatment when a spirochetal infection causes open sores, general malaise, and unusual filament growths.
Dairy cattle receive antibiotic treatment when a spirochetal infection causes open sores, filament growth, and decreased milk production.
Yet when a person experiences a spirochetal infection with open sores, filament growth, and debilitating systemic symptoms, many experts call them “delusional.”
Help us make Morgellons a disease acknowledged by practitioners as the debilitating disease it is. The harm and emotional turmoil that comes from misdiagnosis is too massive to adequately explain.
Help spread awareness and change the dogma surrounding Morgellons disease through grassroots efforts. Your donations help fund the research for practical solutions that can provide relief to those suffering from Morgellons disease.