Great. Just great.
What happens is the patients' immune systems become damaged, leaving them unable to fend off germs as healthy people do. How it happens, we don't know, but the disease does not seem to be contagious.
So that's good news at least.
It is another kind of acquired immune deficiency that is not inherited and occurs in adults, but doesn't spread the way AIDS does through a virus. Here's what one of the researches said:
"This is absolutely fascinating. I've seen probably at least three patients in the last 10 years or so."
The disease develops around age 50 on average but does not run in families, which makes it unlikely that a single gene is responsible.
The virus that causes AIDS — HIV — destroys T-cells. The new disease doesn't touch those cells, but causes a different kind of damage. What they did find was that most of those with the disease make substances called autoantibodies that block interferon-gamma, a chemical signal that helps the body clear infections.
What's weirder is that nearly all the patients so far have been Asian or Asian-born people living elsewhere.
It suggests that genetic factors and something in the environment around them — like an infection — may trigger the disease, but nobody knows yet!
We hope we can figure this out soon — we don't need more issues like this in the world right now!
[Image via AP Images.]