Molecular Analysis of the Systemic Dermatoses of Morgellons Disease

Research output: Contribution to conferencePosterpeer-review


Morgellons disease (MD) is a multisystem infectious disease historically viewed as controversial and poorly understood by the medical community. These contentions involve difficulties in diagnosis, as symptoms of MD have similarities consistent with a psychiatric disorder involving the false beliefs of infestation by parasites, also known as delusional parasitosis or delusional infestation. Currently, the factors determining the etiology and transmission of MD are still unknown and the dispute surrounding Morgellons is substantial. MD doesn’t discriminate – it affects people of all ages, genders, and ethnicities. In MD patients, a distinct feature of near-microscopic and microscopic fibers is visual within the dermopathy, possessing unique characterizations and formations within the cutaneous and subcutaneous layers of the skin. These unique fibers are spontaneous and consist of a multitude of colors. Although the color of fibers is not fully understood, fiber-like filaments are perceived to be caused by an overproduction of keratin and collagen, with blue filaments containing granules of melanin. However, analysis from past research has given mixed results from unknown to keratin. Other signs and symptoms of MD include crawling sensations on and under the skin, intense itching, severe fatigue, cognitive difficulties, and behavioral effects.

The aim of this study is to investigate if an infectious etiology of the systemic dermatoses is present. Previous research endeavors suggest MD is a disorder associated with a tick-borne illness caused by the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi. A pathogenic spirochete and the causative agent of Lyme disease (LD), transmitted to humans through the bite of an infected black-legged tick (Ixodes scapularis). MD studies are currently focused on spirochetes as the causative agent to understand if a coinfection exists and/or multifactorial etiology is a cohort. Recognition of the potential coexistence of multiple pathogens in MD etiology may stimulate the development of novel approaches to diagnosis and treatment. Therefore, allowing multiple diagnostic approaches to be applied simultaneously to detect for the major pathogens in MD.

Epithelial tissue samples are collected and deidentified for DNA extraction and polymerase chain reaction (PCR) is performed using specially designed primers to detect if Bartonella henselae, Borrelia burgdorferi, Helicobacter pylori, and Treponema denticola are present. After amplification, PCR products are visualized on a 1-2% agarose gel, stained with SYBR Safe, and visualized on the GelDoc Imager. Positive bands are excised and purified from gels using chemical and centrifugal measures. Eluted DNA is quantified using a NanoDrop spectrophotometer and then sent to OSU’s core facility for Sanger Sequencing. Bioinformatic tools are implemented, and nucleotide sequences interpreted for verification of our genes of interest.

Our results indicate the presence of multiple pathogenic organisms found in dermatological specimens, suggesting an infectious etiology of the dermopathy is present. Replication of preliminary data is ongoing for credibility of scientific claims. Future research needs to be conducted to continue the exploration of etiologic causes to support our findings. Through further analysis, the potential coexistence of multiple pathogens in MD may hold the answers to this unsolved mystery and bring a better understanding for MD to be recognized in the medical community.
Original languageAmerican English
StatePublished - 17 Feb 2023
EventOklahoma State University Center for Health Sciences Research Week 2023 - Oklahoma State University Center for Health Sciences, 1111 W. 17th street, Tulsa, United States
Duration: 13 Feb 202317 Feb 2023


ConferenceOklahoma State University Center for Health Sciences Research Week 2023
Country/TerritoryUnited States
Internet address


  • Morgellons disease
  • Lyme disease
  • fibers
  • etiology
  • Borrelia burgdorferi


Dive into the research topics of 'Molecular Analysis of the Systemic Dermatoses of Morgellons Disease'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this