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J Reprod Immunol. 1998 Dec;41(1-2):341-57.

Horizontal transmission of feline immunodeficiency virus with semen from seropositive cats.

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Division of Viral Pathogenesis, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Boston, MA 02215, USA.


The AIDS virus of cat species, feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV), has been used extensively as an animal model of HIV-1 infection. This felid lentivirus shares many molecular and biochemical traits with HIV-1 and causes similar immunologic and clinical perturbations, most notably CD4+ cell loss, impaired cell-mediated immunity and increased susceptibility to opportunistic pathogens. Previous reports have shown that FIV is transmitted horizontally by biting and vertically in utero and through nursing. Our objective was to determine whether FIV could be venereally transmitted in domestic cats. In the first experiment, susceptibility of the female reproductive tract to mucosal transmission of the FIV isolate, NCSU1, was demonstrated via intravaginal inoculation with infected cultured cells. We next identified virus in electroejaculates from asymptomatic, chronically FIV-NCSU1-infected, adult males. A fragment of FIV gag provirus DNA was detected by nested polymerase chain reaction (PCR) in nonfractionated seminal cells and in swim-up sperm preparations. Additionally, replication-competent virus was isolated from cell-free seminal plasma and seminal cells by co-cultivation with a feline CD4+ T-cell line. In the third study, queens were artificially inseminated via an intrauterine laparoscopic technique with electroejaculates from FIV-NCSU1-infected males. Of six inseminations carried out with fresh semen, three resulted in infection of queens. Lastly, immunohistochemical studies identified potential virus target cell populations in normal female reproductive tissues. In conclusion, these experiments indicate that FIV infection in domestic cats may provide a unique small animal model of sexual transmission of HIV-1.

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