Posted by Niels P. Mayer in Medicine at 20080118 Comments
William Harvey, 70, who serves as chairman of the MRF board, has taken those theories one step farther. He says he became interested in Morgellons research after successfully battling chronic fatigue syndrome and made it his mission to find cures for such unexplained illnesses.
He wouldn't be specific, explaining that he first wants the results of his research to appear in a top-notch, peer-reviewed journal such as the Lancet. "This may be the story of the century," he says. A semi-retired doctor in Colorado Springs who spent most of his career working in space medicine for the Johnson Space Center, Harvey says he may have found not only why Morgellons patients would both scratch and act strange, but also what could be the "genesis of probably most chronic human illnesses," such as autism, obesity, chronic fatigue and bipolar disorder.
It all boils down to this: mutant worms.
Harvey hypothesizes that a type of nematode, a wormlike parasite that lives in the soil as well as in the guts or lungs of about half the animals on the planet, mutated somewhere in the 1970s in Southeast Asia and jumped from animals to humans. The parasite is easily spread through the fecal-oral route if someone, for example, is out working in the garden, fails to wash his or her hands thoroughly and then eats an orange. Or it gets into the lungs by inhaling sputum or by kissing. The worm then takes up residence in the colon, Harvey theorizes, and the body's immune system holds it in check.
But when the immune system falters, the worms swarm in the body. That's what happens, Harvey hypothesizes, after a human is infected with a strain of bacteria first reported in 1986, Chlamydophila pneumonia. These bacteria like to live in immune cells, Harvey says, and they feast on those cells' energy. With the host's immune system compromised, the mutant nematodes begin reproducing exponentially, Harvey suspects. They burrow a hole in the wall of the colon, then usually travel at night through the bloodstream or the lymphatic system or crawl in hordes between the layers of the skin, like other species of nematodes are known to do, to the parts of the body with the most blood flow: the face, head and nose. There, a cranial nerve leads right into the brain. A pileup of worms could jam blood and oxygen flow to the brain, Harvey says. "That may explain the psychological symptoms," including the hallucinations, he says.
It may explain why Pam Winkler took herself to the emergency room recently. She said that a huge bump had appeared on the side of her skull in the middle of the night. By morning, she said, the bump was gone, but she could feel crawling all over her face. She wasn't making it up, she swore. And she put her stepsister, with whom she's been living since she got out of the state hospital, on the phone. "I can see them. They're moving down from her head to her eye," said Karen DeWeese. "They're about one and a half inches long and a half-inch wide. They look like bubbles under the skin." The ER doctor later found nothing.
The fibers, according to Harvey's theory, are really the hard shells, which he calls cuticles, that these worms shed at five stages as they grow from egg to larvae to adult. The red fibers are the males, he says. Blue fibers are female. "Using a 2,000-power microscope, you can see inside them," he says. "They look like little stovepipes to me. I can tell the blue ones are female because there's a kink in the middle for the sexual organs and some kind of pouch. And we have pictures of them laying thousands of eggs."
"If you write this theory, it's probably going to sound like someone's come from the mental institution," Harvey says. "But the fact is that this is a real disease, and it appears to be growing."
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