Followup to Morgellons post--link to Collembola?

A reader sent me a link to this site, which contained a reprint of a story by CBS 47 in Jacksonville. Mostly, it was a repeat of the story I already discussed, but it added this tidbit of information:

The NPA teamed up with the Oklahoma State Department of Health to study the creepy crawlers.

They took skin samples from 20 patients who claim they have the bugs, but were diagnosed by their doctors as delusional.

Researchers found collembolan, a microscopic critter, in 18 of the 20 patients.

Collembola feed on algae, bacteria and decaying matter. They thrive in wet or damp surroundings, and can be found under leaky kitchen or bathroom sinks, swimming pools, and the soil of potted plants.

The report was published in the journal of the New York Entomological Association. However, it wasn't enough evidence to get the centers for disease control to take action.

Actual research--it was a start. So I dug up the paper, which can be found here (.pdf file). For anyone who may be an entomologist, they have shots of the organism (in better detail here), which they claim was associated with delusional parasitosis. They don't look like much to me, but I'm not exactly sure what I should be looking for. (Morgellons watch has more on an insect connection, including many comments from people within the Morgellons community).

However, even without the pics, the paper has some giant flaws. For one, they only had a group of 20 patients--very tiny. Second, though they mention a control group in the paper, there's no information on the presence of Collembola in the healthy controls versus the patient group--was it found in a similar percentage of the controls? In none of them? (If it were the latter, I would have expected them to mention it, since it would have strengthened the paper. Since they didn't, that sends up a big red flag). Third, those who did the microscopic analysis weren't blinded to the status of the sample--they knew if they were looking at a patient versus a control (which could have biased their findings).

So, even though this was a paper they sent to the CDC in order to encourage them to investigate Morgellons, I can see why the people there were completely unconvinced.

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Yeah, I don't know enough about Collembola, I'll have to look that one up, but it might just be a coincidence. Has Collembola been known to cause human disease?

I still think the majority of the facts support a sociogenic illness, like the vague symptoms, lack of commonality of presentation, the attribution of ordinary household fibers to the disease process, and the comorbidities suggestive of a more suggestible population etc.

Anyway, time to go read a good ID book for Collembola.

The only place I've heard talk about Morgellons syndrome is, of all things, Coast to Coast AM, the woowoo all-night radio show! It fits in perfectly with their usual fare of ghosts and such, since this is such a creepy disease.

They interviewed Douglas Buckner who is the co-director of the Morgellons Research Foundation. I heard part of the interview, and he was describing the fibers they have pulled from patients. It was horrifying, but since it was C2C I was listening with a huge grain of salt (full disclosure: I've been on C2C several times myself).

I find myself fascinated by this as well as repelled. What an odd world we live in!

Ok, Collembola? I think it's not likely to be causing this. It's just an ubiquitous invertebrate that likes to eat fungus. These things are everywhere, why would they suddenly be causing an outbreak? Has collembola mutated to attack humans? A mutant collembola strain? Are the collembola infected with a parasite that causes the generalized symptoms or have they developed venom? None of these things seems likely to me. Then there is the list of junk they found in their skin.

In the current study, in which pains were taken to avoid sample contamination, there were over 300 anomalous findings in skin scrapings from the 20 symptomatic study participants and none from controls. These findings included pollen, conidia or spores, hyphae, mycelium, algae or fibers, clumped skin or cellular debris, an occasional nematode, and what appeared to be insect eggs, larvae or embryos. These collective anomalies point to the compromised skin of most of the symptomatic study participants, and could directly or indirectly (through an immune or allergic response) produce sensations of stinging/biting and/or crawling, as well as some of the other symptoms.

It also doesn't explain their general symptoms of fatigue, the fibers, etc. A more likely explanation is that when people who have delusional parasitosis scratch themselves so much that they have lesions, that they sometimes forget to wash their hands before doing so. Then they end up with all sorts of crap embedded in their skin. This is a "correlation does not imply causation" type of problem. The only correct control would be to have a cohort of healthy people scratch themselves obsessively and see if a similar amount of crap from under their nails is transferred into the skin.

I'm suffering from a disease that needs more research: chronological fatigue syndrome.

This is a very poor paper. Since they only identified them to the order, not even as family I am assuming that different patients had Collembola from different families. If they had all been from the same family or even species they might be on to something.

From a quick look the only family that has a potential to cause problems would be the Onychiuridae. They can exude their hemolymph which is noxious and/or toxic. The picture could be an organism from this family, it is lacking the springtail (furcula) that gives this order its common name of springtails, but another family also lacks the furcula. And again, the id just to the order sends up my red flag Tara and was probably another reason the CDC discounted this paper.

The only correct control would be to have a cohort of healthy people scratch themselves obsessively and see if a similar amount of crap from under their nails is transferred into the skin.

...or just people who have other skin conditions but not the symptoms of delusional parasitosis. Either way, data on *any* control group would have been an improvement.

Kevin, thanks for the additional info on the bugs.

This is interesting. Not to blog-whore here, but last fall I posted a little piece about formication and for the last few months I've noticed that every once in a while there's a surge of folks who get to the post while searching google for information about bugs crawling under their skin, etc. They seem to go away without finding what they are looking for, and don't tend to return as far as I can tell.

This surprised me, as I have relatively little traffic in general, and I'd had no idea that so many people suffered from this particular malady (which has bothered me intermittently since childhood). But now I'm starting to hear more about this Morgellons thing and I'm wondering if these searches perhaps correlate with a news report about it somewhere. I'll have to start paying more attention. I don't think that any of the folks seeking information about such things as Morgellons whatever-the-hell it is will find anything very helpful on my blog :) -- I'm perfectly happy to believe that it's all in my head. Just don't show me any pictures of ants.

[FWIW I have long since accepted the 'tactile hallucination' concept, and I've never had any associated rashes or lesions and it's perfectly clear to me that there is nothing at all on my skin, or under it. Of course, I don't scratch it, because that makes it much worse. Certainly does not help in the least. I don't feel the least bit marginalized by the medical community & I haven't gone from doctor to doctor being discounted or dismissed.]

KevinC -- I agree that it's a lousy paper, but it did ID the families (there were more than one: "...images were reviewed by entomologists and the presence of Collembola verified and identified as representative of the families Isotomidae and Entomobrydae." -in the 1st paragraph of the discussion). Not the family you noted as exuding noxious hemolymph.

I also don't like it that the ID of the Collembola was reached with a great deal of difficult microscopic analysis of photographs taken of the samples, not solely of the original slides -- the control subjects' scrapings were not photographed and not subject to the same degree of scrutiny because the the slides looked grossly normal, i.e. they didn't contain a bunch of debris. And the initial examinations of the scrapings were non-blinded - examiners knew which had come from the controls and which from the study subjects.

I totally agree w/quitter that a better control would be skin from folks who'd scratched themselves silly.

On the other hand, if these beasties feed on fungus, wouldn't you want to also rule out a fungal infection (or at least the presence of some kind of fungus on the skin)?

Good luck with that.

I really want to stop thinking about this now.

The questions being asked about Morgellons disease are disturbing. Is it the result of covert bioterrorism? Is it a new stress-induced, psychosomatic epidemic? Is it a spiritual disease? Is it being brought on by fear? Is Morgellons disease a physical epiphenomenon of war-on-terror paranoia? Why is it peculiarly American? And why is it specifically clustered in Texas, California and Florida?

I provide this post to all. I hope that everybody may look into the Morgellons that has had much news media coverage of late. The following will explain the support and understanding that people with Morgellons need at this time:

Letter from Dr. Smith

I appreciate your taking this information and hope you find it informative. It is my purpose to inform you of what I think is a rapidly emerging infectious disease. I have seen patients with this disease in my practice.
Whether or not you know it, you do as well
the rest of the letter can be found at:

Please read the following letter also:

Letter sent to the CDC from Senator Dianne Feinstein :

Letter to Doctors from Randy S. Wymore, Ph.D. and Rhonda Casey, D.O. Courtesy of OSU's :

All of the above support and letters can be found at the New Morgellons Order: website.

Please take the time to look into Morgellons with an open mind that there "is" a new disease that needs the research and support from all Doctors in every medical field.
Thank you for your time

Hello TexasRose,

I think that Tara and the other scientists on this site are looking into the possibility of this being a new disease with an open mind, which is very good.

Collembola were among some of the arthropods found on some patients' scalps by Dr Omar Amin, in his investigation of the new disease, viz. neurocutaneous syndrome (NCS).

I am unsure if this condition is the same as Morgellons, but the clinical features would appear to be absolutely identical.

Collembola do feed on fungus, and, according to Dr Amin, NCS is usually heralded by a preceding fungal infection. He additionally states that, even after curative treatment, these patients experience further symptoms if ever in the presence of mould.

Collembola also feed on other arthropods' fecal matter. Different classes of arthropods were found breeding on the affected patients' scalps by Dr Amin.

I know of one (unrelated to NCS)earlier published case of scalp myiasis, which was eventually found to be caused by collembola repeatedly coming off a plant that had been situated next to the patient's bed!

Since collembola live on plants, could there be a connection between this and their possible inhabitation of affected patients' scalps, particularly if the previously unidentifiable fibers are now being scientifically identified as containing plant DNA, and the agrobacterium species that usually infects plants?

It seems to me, (although I could be wrong), that, no matter how maddening the formicatory impulse, and irrespective of how resolutely and repeatedly the person engaged in extremely ill-advised scratching and clawing, this would never ever ever result in the growth of this type of vegetation.

I do agree that flying arthropods could be attracted by the sweet scent (to them) of dermatophytosis, open lesions, (which should never be scratched by the patient)and also (if present)by an established community of myiasis, (even of a different species).

The fibers would seem to come in different sizes and colours, and each is being investigated now.

Some are but the length of an eyelash, but others are apparently quite long and thick.

In quite what way all of the different parts of this affliction are possibly being orchestrated together is something that should be investigated.

I have found Cliff Mickelson's writing to be very helpful in this regard, in that he engages in a verbatim dialogue with a scientist who claims to have actually visualised the fiber growing side by side with a hair in a follicle.

They also explain something of what they term the callus formation.

This is quite interesting, in my humble opinion, in that the experiments with genetically modified agrobacterium cause callus formation in the targeted plant. I do not know if these two things could be in any way related, and would be interested in a scientific opinion from this site.

I did originally think that a lot of this was imaginary, and being fuelled by the internet. This may of course be true in some cases.

Yet, how can it be that one patient may see Dr Amin and receive a bona fide diagnosis and regimen of treatment, while another (with identical clinical features) is termed otherwise and is prescribed nothing?

There are too many connections that are not being put together, or so it would seem.

Some of the other latest findings on some of the fibers point to silicone and silica.

Dr Amin's latest work into NCS pinpoints silicone as a risk factor.

You say it's not true? Trust me it is. Me, my boyfriend and his brothers and sisters have them. You can say were paranoid and shit all you like but you just wait till it happens to you then try and ignore it and think it's not true. Tis is becoming a problem around the world the stupid government needs to do something about it and the doctors need to wake up and realise this isn't bullshit!! People are suffering in silence all over the world and do they even care? Obviously not. Doctors don't understand, we need help! Does it have to take children and adults babies to start dying all over the world before they believe us..