Saturday, September 15, 2012
China - Chinese epidemiologist dismisses “AIDS-like disease” concerns
BEIJING — A Chinese epidemiologist on Tuesday dismissed public concerns over a latest immunodeficiency disease, after media likened the disease to AIDS due to their similarity in symptoms.
Scientists from the United States, Taiwan and Thailand said neutralizing anti-interferon autoantibodies were found in Asian adults with multiple opportunistic infections and were associated with an adult-onset immunodeficiency akin to that of advanced HIV infection.
The findings, which were published in the Aug. 23th edition of the New England Journal of Medicine, have prompted some Chinese media to compare the immunodeficiency to AIDS symptoms and address it as “new type of immunodeficiency in Asian adults”.
Zeng Guang, chief epidemiologist with the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, said there was no need to panic as the adult-onset immunodeficiency was neither infectious nor inheritable, qualities that would distinguish it from AIDS.
No evidence could show that such immunodeficiency exists only in Asia,because all the patients of the study have so far only involved people from Thailand and Taiwan and researchers have not officially claimed it was a new disease, Zeng said.
According to the epidemiologist, diseases featuring immunodeficiency have long been recorded. They could be either be born with, or developed after humans caught cancer, received radiotherapy or chemotherapy, or hit by mental diseases.
Soon after the circulation of the research findings, some Chinese have also linked the patients of the study to the so-called “HIV-Negative AIDS” group, referring to people who said they had displayed symptoms very similar with AIDS but tested to be HIV negative.
China’s Health Ministry first received reports of “HIV-Negative AIDS” in June 2009. Tests found the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV), a common virus family, in 55 percent of the patients. But no evidence showed EBV as the cause of the symptoms.
The ministry said in May 2011 that no new or unknown viruses have been found among the self-proclaimed “HIV-Negative AIDS” group, and the cause of their AIDS-like symptoms had yet to be determined.
Most of the so-called “HIV-Negative AIDS” patients, who have symptoms such as swollen lymph nodes, subcutaneous bleeding, joint pain, fatigue, night sweating and loss of weight, were later found to suffer from psychological AIDS phobia or other mental stress, according to Zeng.
The symptoms of some “HIV-Negative AIDS” patients relieved or even disappeared after their psychological problems were addressed, he said.
Although it might be possible that some “HIV-Negative AIDS” patients may well be those caught with the adult-onset immunodeficiency, there was no need to panic because the disease was not contagious, he said.