BETHESDA, Md. (WUSA) --- A frightening medical mystery was disclosed Thursday in the New England Journal of Medicine; a new, AIDS-like disease that has doctors confounded about where it comes from and how to stop it.
There are hundreds of patients, most of them Asians.
But in terms of understanding where this disease comes from, doctors are still guessing.
Dr. Sarah Brown at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases helped lead the study of the new disease, which severely damages patients' immune systems, much like AIDS.
Most cases have been found in Thailand and Taiwan since 2004, with some here in the United States.
Doctors call it an " Adult-Onset Immunodeficiency syndrome " because It strikes patients- on average- at age 50.
It does not appear to be contagious.
It apparently is not a virus, like HIV.
But, like HIV, It severely damages the immune system, making it hard to protect against infections and disease.
"Even though the end result is that they look like an H-I-V-infected person, because they have so many of these complicating infections, in fact, it isn't an infection that's causing it. It's the body's reaction against an important protein, so it isn't contagious. It doesn't spread from one person to another," said Anthony Fauci, the Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, in a CNN interview Thursday.
So far, doctors have found they can help patients but not cure them.
"We have antibiotics against the infections that they get, but that doesn't treat the underlying defect that's leading to this susceptibility, to these infections. That has not been worked out yet," Fauci said.