Tuesday, 28 August 2012

In a major cause of concern, an international team of researchers has discovered a new disease that mimics AIDS and destroys the body immune system. The disease identified in elderly Asians, however, is not infectious and does not transmit from person to person like the AIDS

By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad: In a major cause of concern, an international team
of researchers has discovered a new disease that mimics AIDS and
destroys the body immune system. The disease identified in elderly
Asians, however, is not infectious and does not transmit from person
to person like the AIDS.

Moreover, this AIDS-like disease is not caused by the human
immunodeficiency virus. Since there is no pathogen or causative agent,
the disease cannot be spread from person to person through either body
fluids or other sources.

Doctors in India are yet to find out if the AIDS-like disease is
present in the country. City experts in infectious diseases point out
that they have not come across such cases so far, as no research study
has been done here. Many doctors including those attached to corporate
hospitals in the city feigned ignorance about this disease saying they
are yet to study the new finding.

This immunodeficiency syndrome causes damage to the immune system
throwing open the body to a myriad of infectious diseases,
particularly tuberculosis. The body loses immunity against fungal,
viral and bacterial infections too.

Many diseases in India go unnoticed, as hospitals are not equipped
with modern laboratory equipment to detect new pathogens. Acute
shortage of clinician scientists also adds to the problem. The Indian
Council of Medical Research (ICMR) had woken up to new diseases only
after scientists elsewhere discovered them. The super bug, New Delhi
Metallo-beta lactamase, is the best example.

Reporting its finding in the latest issue of international scientific
journal, New England Journal of Medicine, the team led by Sarah K
Browne of US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases,
noted that the problem could be due to either genetic make up of
Asians or the local environment factors. The AIDS-like disease was
identified in a little over 200 patients from Thailand and Taiwan.
They had either pulmonary tuberculosis or other forms of TB, or
opportunistic infections. The patients do not respond to known
antibiotics.

The researchers found the patients had an immune-system antibody,
whose presence had made their body system ineffective to fight
infections. This antibody nullifies the impact of a molecule,
interferon-gamma, which protects the body against diseases.

Though it is a solace that the disease is non-infectious, what is
worrying researchers is that it is capable of making people severely
ill, often resulting in death. An interesting aspect about the
research is that a detailed study of the functioning of
interferon-gamma would help in finding cure to viral diseases. Viral
diseases, at present, do not have a known cure.

The major difference between AIDS and AIDS-like disease is that in the
former case, antibodies are formed to fight virus, and in the latter,
the body creates antibodies to fight against itself.

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