Experts to debate 'Aids-like' illness

AN URGENT meeting to discuss a growing number of cases of an Aids-like illness in patients who have no trace of HIV, was announced by the World Health Organisation yesterday.

It follows reports this week of more than 30 cases in the United States, France, Spain and the United Kingdom, which fit this description. A doctor in California is now claiming that a new retrovirus (belonging to the same family as HIV) has been found in one of the patients. Two scientists in New York are also believed to have evidence of such a virus.

The illness appears to be rare, but if a new virus is responsible it has worrying implications for public health officials, particularly over screening of blood supplies.

Dr Michael Merson, director of the WHO's global programme on Aids, told the International Conference on Aids in Amsterdam that there would be an 'immediate follow-up' of the claims. 'WHO will bring together people from everywhere who have reported the cases and experts to look at the information, analyse it and see what should be done next.' The meeting will be held in Geneva within months, he said.

The conference, attended by the world's leading Aids researchers, was 'hijacked' yesterday by Dr Sudhir Gupta, chief of Basic and Clinical Immunology at the University of California, Irvine, who announced that he had found a new virus - Human Intracisternal Retrovirus - in a 66-year-old woman with severe immunodeficiency and a form of pneumonia common in Aids. Her 38-year-old daughter, who is healthy, also has the virus, he said. Neither woman had any risk factor for Aids and neither had tested positive for HIV-1, HIV-2, or any other human retrovirus.

Aids experts expressed cautious scepticism over Dr Gupta's work, which is to be published next month in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Dr Max Essex, of the Harvard School of Public Health, questioned whether Dr Gupta had found viral particles rather than a whole new virus. Thousands of such particles from retroviruses are present in the body and have never been linked to disease.

Dr James Curran, leader of the Centers for Disease Control's HIV-Aids programme, said that investigation of cases was now a priority. The CDC this week confirmed that it was investigating six cases of the Aids-like illness in the absence of HIV. Dr Jeffrey Laurance, of Cornell University in New York, has five patients. He is thought to have found some evidence of a retrovirus but is refusing to discuss the results until publication of a scientific paper.

Dr David Ho, director of the Aaron Diamond Aids Research Center in New York, said that over several years he had treated 11 patients with the Aids-like illness but no HIV. An enzyme produced by retroviruses was present in some of them, he said.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Events Consultant

£24000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A position has arisen for an ex...

Recruitment Genius: Injection Moulding Supervisor

£20000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Busy moulding company requires ...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Advisor - £35,000 OTE

£18000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Advisor is required to ...

Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Advisor / Contact Centre Advisor

£16000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: As the UK's leading accident an...

Day In a Page

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn
Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

The shadow Home Secretary on fighting radical Islam, protecting children, and why anyone in Labour who's thinking beyond May must 'sort themselves out'
A bad week for the Greens: Leader Natalie Bennett's 'car crash' radio interview is followed by Brighton council's failure to set a budget due to infighting

It's not easy being Green

After a bad week in which its leader had a public meltdown and its only city council couldn't agree on a budget vote, what next for the alternative party? It's over to Caroline Lucas to find out
Gorillas nearly missed: BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter

Gorillas nearly missed

BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
Downton Abbey effect sees impoverished Italian nobles inspired to open their doors to paying guests for up to €650 a night

The Downton Abbey effect

Impoverished Italian nobles are opening their doors to paying guests, inspired by the TV drama
China's wild panda numbers have increased by 17% since 2003, new census reveals

China's wild panda numbers on the up

New census reveals 17% since 2003