'Aids-like illness' not caused by HIV virus

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The Independent Online
(First Edition)

RESEARCHERS in America have confirmed the existence of an Aids-like illness which is not caused by the HIV virus. However, no other agent has been identified as the cause and the condition is unlikely to be transmissible, although this has not been ruled out, writes Liz Hunt.

The researchers suggest that the illness may have been around for some time and is being picked up more frequently now only because of its similarity to Aids.

Since 1989, there have been several reports of patients with an Aids-like illness but with no trace of HIV in their bodies. Concern grew at the International Aids Conference in Amsterdam last year, when more than 30 other cases were reported.

A task force set up by the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta said it found no evidence that the illness, CD4 T-lymphocytopenia, was a 'recently emerging phenomenon'. According to its report in the New England Journal of Medicine, cases had been identified as early as 1983.

The researchers reviewed more than 230,000 Aids reports and identified 47 cases of the illness in the US. Eighteen of the patients had one or more risk factors for HIV but the remainder had no risk factors. Nineteen patients had illnesses which are common in Aids; 25 per cent had conditions that were were not Aids-related. Three had no symptoms.

They concluded that the condition was rare and probably due to various disorders, and that 'although an unknown infectious agent cannot be ruled out definitively, the epidemiological data do not suggest that the condition is caused by a transmissible agent'.