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The World Health Organization said Tuesday it found no firm evidence that a new virus is the cause of AIDS-like symptoms in a small number of patients, but it urged further study.

The announcement followed a WHO-sponsored meeting of leading experts on acquired immune deficiency syndrome who reviewed reports on less than 100 people who showed signs of the illness without having the HIV virus.Most of the cases, which involved severe damage to people's immune system, could be linked to known diseases like cancer, drug abuse, tuberculosis or genetic defects, Dr. Michael Merson, head of the U.N. agency's AIDS program, told a news conference.

"There is no evidence of a new HIV-like epidemic," he said after the two-day meeting of 22 scientists. The cases "do not have a common thread," Merson said.

During a July international conference in Amsterdam, several doctors from the United States and other industrial countries reported on the seemingly mysterious infections. WHO asked 39 laboratories throughout the world to report similar cases for review.

WHO said nothing suggests there is a new virus or any other infection source that could be transmitted by blood or otherwise.