Kaiser, CDC Launch Study of Mysterious Condition
Kaiser Permanente Northern California and CDC are partnering to study a mysterious skin condition that is affecting 150 to 500 people in Northern California, the San Francisco Chronicle reports.
The disease, called Morgellons, does not have an official medical definition but could include symptoms such as open sores and fiber-like objects poking out of the skin, as well as skin sensations, fatigue and confusion. CDC officials said they hope to determine whether Morgellons is a psychiatric condition, as some doctors have speculated (Allday, San Francisco Chronicle, 1/17).
The study will begin immediately and involve patients who sought care for Morgellons-like symptoms at Kaiser Permanente's Northern California facilities between July 2006 and Dec. 31, 2007 (Feder Ostrov, San Jose Mercury News, 1/16). CDC is paying Kaiser $338,000 to test and interview the patients over one year to define the condition and better determine its prevalence (AP/Wall Street Journal, 1/17).
The study will include medical exams, such as dermatological tests, blood analysis and psychiatric evaluations. Researchers also hope to examine skin biopsies and any fibers or other materials from patients' skin, the Chronicle reports.
Joe Selby, director of Kaiser's Northern California division of research, said the research is a descriptive study, adding, "There are no hypotheses to be tested."
The not-for-profit Morgellons Research Foundation said that more than 10,000 U.S. families have registered with its Web site and claim that at least one family member has the disease. About 24% of those families are from California (San Francisco Chronicle, 1/17).
ABC's "Nightline" and "Good Morning America" recently reported on the study ("Nightline" Web site, 1/16).
A video excerpt of the segment and expanded ABC News coverage are available online.
In addition, CBS' "Early Show" included a discussion with Michele Pearson of CDC about the study (Rodriguez, "Early Show," CBS, 1/17).
Video of the segment and expanded CBS News coverage are available online.