Unexplained skin condition is non-infectious, not linked to environmental cause: CDC

January 25, 2012

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has completed a comprehensive study of an unexplained skin condition commonly referred to as Morgellons and found no infectious agent and no evidence to suggest an environmental link. The full results are reported in the Jan. 25 issue of the online journal PLoS ONE.

In this study, investigators took an in-depth look at a skin condition characterized by unexplained lesions that contain fibers, threads, or other foreign material, accompanied by sensations of crawling, biting, or stinging. The condition is not currently recognized as a distinct clinical disorder with established diagnostic criteria. However, increasing inquiries to the CDC in 2006-2009 regarding the condition prompted the study in Northern California, where many of the persons who reported these symptoms lived.

The researchers found and enrolled 109 persons with symptoms of this condition by searching through the database of a large HMO. They conducted extensive testing to rule out infectious causes, and found no indication that the condition was attributed an infection. The researchers also determined that the fibers associated with the lesions were apparently fragments of cloth or other debris. The investigators showed that the condition is uncommon, estimating that it results in fewer than four out of 100,000 people seeking medical attention. About half of the had evidence of other medical, most commonly psychiatric, illnesses.

The CDC suggests that people suffering with symptoms similar to those reported in the study should see their for a complete physical to ensure proper diagnosis of all illnesses, including psychiatric, and follow the recommended treatments.

"We found no evidence that this condition is contagious, or that suggests the need for additional testing for an infectious disease as a potential cause," says Dr. Mark Eberhard, Director of CDC's Division of and Malaria and a lead study investigator. "This alleviates concerns about the condition being contagious between family members and others."

Explore further: Objective evidence of skin infestation lacking in patients with diagnosis of delusional infestation

More information: Pearson ML, Selby JV, Katz KA, Cantrell V, Braden CR, et al. (2012) Clinical, Epidemiologic, Histopathologic and Molecular Features of an Unexplained Dermopathy. PLoS ONE 7(1): e29908. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0029908

Related Stories

Heart may hold key to unexplained nausea in youths

August 25, 2011

Heart rate and blood pressure regulation may hold the key to treating unexplained chronic nausea in children. In a new study by researchers at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center, a drug commonly used to treat a condition ...

Recommended for you

Zika virus infection alters human and viral RNA

October 20, 2016

Researchers at University of California San Diego School of Medicine have discovered that Zika virus infection leads to modifications of both viral and human genetic material. These modifications—chemical tags known as ...

Food-poisoning bacteria may be behind Crohn's disease

October 19, 2016

People who retain a particular bacterium in their gut after a bout of food poisoning may be at an increased risk of developing Crohn's disease later in life, according to a new study led by researchers at McMaster University.

Neurodevelopmental model of Zika may provide rapid answers

October 19, 2016

A newly published study from researchers working in collaboration with the Regenerative Bioscience Center at the University of Georgia demonstrates fetal death and brain damage in early chick embryos similar to microcephaly—a ...

Scientists uncover new facets of Zika-related birth defects

October 17, 2016

In a study that could one day help eliminate the tragic birth defects caused by Zika virus, scientists from the Florida campus of The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) have elucidated how the virus attacks the brains of newborns, ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.