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Cold Spring Harb Perspect Med. 2012 Jan;2(1):a007153. doi: 10.1101/cshperspect.a007153.

Nonpathogenic simian immunodeficiency virus infections.

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  • 1Laboratory of Molecular Microbiology, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD 20892, USA.


The simian immunodeficiency viruses (SIVs) are a diverse group of viruses that naturally infect a wide range of African primates, including African green monkeys (AGMs) and sooty mangabey monkeys (SMs). Although natural infection is widespread in feral populations of AGMs and SMs, this infection generally does not result in immunodeficiency. However, experimental inoculation of Asian macaques results in an immunodeficiency syndrome remarkably similar to human AIDS. Thus, natural nonprogressive SIV infections appear to represent an evolutionary adaptation between these animals and their primate lentiviruses. Curiously, these animals maintain robust virus replication but have evolved strategies to avoid disease progression. Adaptations observed in these primates include phenotypic changes to CD4(+) T cells, limited chronic immune activation, and altered mucosal immunity. It is probable that these animals have achieved a unique balance between T-cell renewal and proliferation and loss through activation-induced apoptosis, and virus-induced cell death. A clearer understanding of the mechanisms underlying the lack of disease progression in natural hosts for SIV infection should therefore yield insights into the pathogenesis of AIDS and may inform vaccine design.

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