Researchers have published a new study in which they have identified a new disease in Asia that causes AIDS-like symptoms but is not related to HIV.
Scientists at the National Institute of Health (NIH) published the study in the New England Journal of Medicine on Thursday and revealed that patients who had the disease were producing antibodies that attacked their immune systems.
"We all make molecules and proteins in the body that tell our immune system how to function properly," Dr. Sarah Browne, a clinical investigator at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at NIH and the lead author of the study, said in a statement.
"They tell different immune cells when to turn on and when to start fighting infection," she added. "We found a large number of the patients that we studied with serious opportunistic infections make an antibody that blocks the function of one of these molecules, which is interferon-gamma."
The disease is being called adult-onset immunodeficiency syndrome because it strikes adults. Most of the cases occurred in Thailand and Taiwan and stretch back to 2004.
"It's rare- more prevalent over in Southeast Asia," Browne told CNN. "But we have been diagnosing it here in the U.S. in individuals of Asian descent."
Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of NIAID, stressed that it is important to make the distinction that this disease is not contagious.
"It is not a virus, that's the first thing. It's not a new AIDS-like virus … It's a syndrome that was noticed and discovered in Asia where people get opportunistic infections similar to HIV/AIDS, but the because of the syndrome is not an infection like HIV," Fauci told CNN.
"The reason the body is making that antibody is unclear but it isn't a virus like HIV that's causing it … it's autoimmune disease, and people get secondary infections similar to AIDS," he added.