Scientists dismiss 'new Aids virus'

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The Independent Online
SCIENTISTS yesterday dismissed claims of a new Aids virus in patients who had symptoms of the disease but who repeatedly tested negative for HIV, writes Liz Hunt.

The announcement followed a special meeting, called by the World Health Organisation, of 22 leading Aids experts to discuss fewer than 100 such cases, some of which came to light at an international conference on Aids in Amsterdam in July.

Doctors from Europe and America told of several patients with severe damage to the immune system and infections common in Aids patients. There was concern that a new virus similar to HIV was responsible and that it could not be detected. In a few of the patients, initial findings suggested the presence of several different agents, but their existence has not been confirmed.

But Dr Michael Merson, director of WHO's global programme on Aids, said that most of the cases appeared to be linked to diseases such as cancer and tuberculosis, drug abuse or genetic defects which affected the immune system. 'There is no evidence of a new HIV-like epidemic,' he said in Geneva yesterday at the close of the two-day meeting. 'There is no suggestion, even among the ones that we cannot explain, of a single, focused reason for these cases.'

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