- "Prof Wymore says his tests rule
out not only textile fibers, but also worms, insects, animal material and
even human skin and hair. He says the filaments are not an external contamination."
- OAKLAND -- A horrifying and fascinating disease is affecting thousands
of people in the Bay Area, along the Gulf Coast and in Florida. Though
some doctors have claimed the malady is psychosomatic, other scientists
are making headway unraveling the mystery of Morgellons Disease.
- Former Oakland A's pitcher Billy Koch
has it. And so do his wife and their three children. And though they can
afford top medical care, doctors have no answers.
- It started in Oakland four years ago.
Koch saved 44 games and was the top reliever in the major leagues. His
fastball wowed crowds. And then the strangeness began.
- "He freaked out. He wanted to ignore
it I wanted to too. But when it comes to your kids, you gotta stop ignoring
it," said Koch's wife Brandi.
- She describes their symptoms: "It
was the scariest thing I had ever realized in my entire life. There was
matter and black specks coming out and off of my skin."
- Within two years -- at age 29 -- Billy
Koch was out of baseball, partly because of the uncontrollable muscle twitching
that went on for months at a time and often kept up him up all night.
- The disease is characterized by slow
healing skin lesions that often extrude small, dark filaments, especially
- "That's when it would really just
ooze -- literally ooze out of my skin," explained Brandi Koch.
- The couple was at wit's end after numerous
doctors not only provided little in the way of relief, but actually were
skeptical about their health problems: "There's no reasonable explanation
for it. I'm not seeing things. l'm watching it happen. We're pretty sane
people" lamented Billy.
- Infectious disease specialist Dr. Neelam
Uppal sympathized with the Kochs' plight: "They've seen several doctors,
[and] everybody's told them they're crazy. It's in their head. They're
- Dr. Uppal gave the Kochs and fifteen
other patients a powerful anti-parasite medicine and antibiotics that helped
temporarily. But the filaments come back.
- Testing of the filaments brought no results,
according to Dr. Uppal: "I've seen [it]; sent it to the lab. They
can't identify it. They'll say 'They're nothing.'"
- The reaction of medical professionals
has made a difficult situation even harder for Brandi Koch: "It's
not enough that you're suffering and hurting. It's 'You're an idiot!' and
'You're crazy!' on top of it. I'm really hurt and sad and scared."
- The Kochs may be the most recognizable
of more than 3,000 families nationwide reporting these same unexplained
symptoms. There are curious clusters, in Florida, along the Gulf Coast
and in the San Francisco Bay Area. That's where we begin our investigation
into new clues to this medical mystery.
- San Francisco physician Rafael Stricker
took samples last spring from Bay Area sufferers. Patients report pustules
and filaments that most doctors dismiss. Dermatologists claimed the filaments
were all delusions, although none had studied them.
- Oklahoma State University Professor Randy
Wymore was the first scientist to conduct research on this disconcerting
disease. He says it's the biggest mystery he's ever been involved in.
- The UC Davis trained physiologist is
leading a medical team at Oklahoma State University in Tulsa, researching
what is now called Morgellons Disease.
- With cooperation from the Centers for
Disease Control and Prevention, Wymore's team is studying Bay Area patients
and others from around the country. His first finding disputes the frequent
diagnosis of delusions.
- "Pathologists and dermatologists
and lab reports [said] that these were textile fibers appearing in the
skin of the sufferers. Now that's just not true, to be perfectly blunt
about it," says Prof. Wymore.
- Wymore says his tests rule out not only
textile fibers, but also worms, insects, animal material and even human
skin and hair. He says the filaments are not an external contamination.
- Instead, they are a substance that materializes
somehow inside the body, apparent artifacts of something infectious. More
results are expected soon. And Wymore says skin problems are not the worst
- He says a neurotoxin or microorganism
may disturb muscle control and memory.
- "The neurological effects are the
much more severe, life altering and much more dangerous of the conditions,"
explains Prof. Wymore.
- This month, Georgia began a statewide
Morgellons registry. Prof. Wymore says he is about to begin a clinical
trial and offers this to sufferers: "We know there's something going
on here. You're not delusional."
- Prof. Wymore has just released an open
letter to doctors treating patients with Morgellons symptoms. It asks physicians
to take it seriously, saying these patients are likely suffering from a
still untreatable emerging disease.