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They took fibers from 12 people, which were tested at the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology. Nothing unusual there, either. Cotton and nylon, mainly -- not some kind of organism wriggling out of a patient's body.
Skin lesions were common, but researchers concluded most of them were from scratching.
What stood out was how the patients did on the psychological exams. Though normal in most respects, they had more depression than the general public and were more obsessive about physical ailments, the study found.
However, they did not have an unusual history of psychiatric problems, according to their medical records. And the testing gave no clear indication of a delusional disorder.
So what do they have? The researchers don't know. They don't even know what to call it, opting for the label "unexplained dermopathy" in their paper.
But clearly, something made them miserable. "The absence of evidence is not evidence of absence," said Felicia Goldstein, an Emory University neurology professor and study co-author.
She said perhaps the patients could be helped by cognitive behavioral therapy that might help them deal with possible contributing psychological issues.
The study is not expected to be the last word on the subject.
Among those with additional questions is Randy Wymore, an Oklahoma State University pharmacologist who for years was the most reputable scientist to look into it and who has concluded Morgellons is not a psychiatric disorder.
On Wednesday, Wymore said he had not seen the CDC paper and was unable to comment on it. But when the study began, he questioned whether Kaiser patients with Morgellons would participate, especially if they were unhappy with how they were previously handled by their Kaiser doctors.
"There is always the question: How many of the study participants actually have Morgellons Disease?" he said, in an email.
The CDC is not planning additional study, however. The agency's expertise is in infectious diseases and environmental health problems, and the researchers saw no evidence of that.
"We're not mental health experts," one CDC spokeswoman said.
PLoS One: http://www.plosone.org/home.action
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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