Skip to main page content
Access keys NCBI Homepage MyNCBI Homepage Main Content Main Navigation
. 2011;4:167-77.
doi: 10.2147/CCID.S26183. Epub 2011 Nov 14.

Filament Formation Associated With Spirochetal Infection: A Comparative Approach to Morgellons Disease

Free PMC article

Filament Formation Associated With Spirochetal Infection: A Comparative Approach to Morgellons Disease

Marianne J Middelveen et al. Clin Cosmet Investig Dermatol. .
Free PMC article


Bovine digital dermatitis is an emerging infectious disease that causes lameness, decreased milk production, and weight loss in livestock. Proliferative stages of bovine digital dermatitis demonstrate keratin filament formation in skin above the hooves in affected animals. The multifactorial etiology of digital dermatitis is not well understood, but spirochetes and other coinfecting microorganisms have been implicated in the pathogenesis of this veterinary illness. Morgellons disease is an emerging human dermopathy characterized by the presence of filamentous fibers of undetermined composition, both in lesions and subdermally. While the etiology of Morgellons disease is unknown, there is serological and clinical evidence linking this phenomenon to Lyme borreliosis and coinfecting tick-borne agents. Although the microscopy of Morgellons filaments has been described in the medical literature, the structure and pathogenesis of these fibers is poorly understood. In contrast, most microscopy of digital dermatitis has focused on associated pathogens and histology rather than the morphology of late-stage filamentous fibers. Clinical, laboratory, and microscopic characteristics of these two diseases are compared.

Keywords: Borrelia burgdorferi; Digital dermatitis; Lyme disease; Morgellons disease; spirochetes.


Figure 1
Figure 1
Bovine digital dermatitis. Note painful ulcerating lesion above the interdigital cleft of the hoof with multiple grayish fibers (top) and closer view of fibers (bottom). Photographs courtesy of GEA Farm Technologies, reprinted with permission.
Figure 2
Figure 2
Morgellons disease. Note painful ulcerating lesions on hand (top) and subcutaneous white and blue fibers (bottom, 60× magnification). Photographs courtesy of the Charles E Holman Foundation, reprinted with permission. Note: Reproduced with permission from the website of the Charles E Holman Foundation (
Figure 3
Figure 3
Morgellons fibers at 100× magnification. Note floral-shaped fibers on external surface (top) and pavement epithelium on internal surface (bottom) of epidermal section.

Similar articles

See all similar articles

Cited by 12 articles

See all "Cited by" articles


    1. Cheli R, Mortellaro CM. Digital dermatitis in cattle. Proc 8th Int Meet Dis Cattle; Milan, Italy. 1974. pp. 208–213.
    1. Weaver AD, Andersson L, De Laistre Banting A, et al. Review of disorders of the ruminant digit with proposals for anatomical and pathological terminology and recording. Vet Rec. 1981;108(6):117–120. - PubMed
    1. Dopfer D, Willemann MA. Standardisation of Infectious Claw Diseases. Proceedings of the 10th International Symposium on Lameness in Ruminants; 1998; Lucerne, Switzerland. 1998. pp. 244–254.
    1. Wells SJ, Garber LP, Wagner BA. Papilomatous digital dermatitis and associated risk factors in US dairy herds. Prev Vet Med. 1999;38(1):11–24. - PubMed
    1. Read DH, Walker RL. Papilomatous digital dermatitis (footwarts) in California dairy cattle: clinical and gross pathologic findings. J Vet Diagn Invest. 1998;10(1):67–76. - PubMed

LinkOut - more resources