Like AIDS, the disease affects patients' immune systems. But it doesn't spread person-to-person the way AIDS does through a virus. It occurs in adults, around age 50 on average, but it doesn't appear to be inherited. Cases date back to 2004, with most of them occurring in Thailand and Taiwan.
The disease was identified in a study published last week in the New England Journal of Medicine:
The disease is being called an adult-onset immunodeficiency syndrome because it strikes adults. Cases date back to 2004, with most of them occurring in Thailand and Taiwan. The NIH has been studying the disease since 2005.It's an autoimmune disease. It affects Asians. It's not contagous. It's not hereditary. So what is it? It's a mystery. More here: Researchers identify rare adult immune disease in Asia.
"It's rare -- more prevalent over in Southeast Asia," Browne told CNN. "But we have been diagnosing it here in the U.S. in individuals of Asian descent."
So far NIH has seen about 12 cases, all of them in people of Asian descent. According to Browne, most patients survive. There have been deaths in other countries, she said, but did not know how many. No one has died in the United States.