Researchers have uncovered a new disease that has symptoms similar to AIDS. The disease has affected dozens of people in Asia and some in the US. The victim’s immune system becomes damaged, just as it does when they have HIV. But doctors are unaware of what triggers the illness.
“This is another kind of acquired immune deficiency that is not inherited and occurs in adults, but doesn’t spread the way AIDS does through a virus,” said Dr. Sarah Browne, a scientist at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.
Dr. Browne worked on the study with a team of researchers in Thailand and Taiwan and reported the results in the New England Journal of Medicine.
“This is absolutely fascinating. I’ve seen probably at least three patients in the last 10 years or so who might have had this,” said Dr. Dennis Maki, an infectious disease specialist at the University of Wisconsin in Madison.
Doctors don’t believe that the disease is contagious, but think that it might be triggered by some kind of infection. The average age of affected patients is 50-years old and it does not appear to be hereditary. Doctors don’t yet know how many patients have died from the ailment.
Most of the patients affected become vulnerable to micro-bacteria and other germs that can cause lung damage. Antibiotics don’t always work, so doctors are regularly testing other approaches, including cancer drugs, to suppress the production of antibodies.
Nearly all of the patients so far have been Asian or Asian-born, leading scientists to believe that the triggers are a mix of both genetic and environmental factors.