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Clin Microbiol Rev. 2006 Oct;19(4):728-62.

Going wild: lessons from naturally occurring T-lymphotropic lentiviruses.

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Department of Microbiology, Immunology and Pathology, College of Veterinary and Biomedical Sciences, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO 80538-1619, USA.


Over 40 nonhuman primate (NHP) species harbor species-specific simian immunodeficiency viruses (SIVs). Similarly, more than 20 species of nondomestic felids and African hyenids demonstrate seroreactivity against feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) antigens. While it has been challenging to study the biological implications of nonfatal infections in natural populations, epidemiologic and clinical studies performed thus far have only rarely detected increased morbidity or impaired fecundity/survival of naturally infected SIV- or FIV-seropositive versus -seronegative animals. Cross-species transmissions of these agents are rare in nature but have been used to develop experimental systems to evaluate mechanisms of pathogenicity and to develop animal models of HIV/AIDS. Given that felids and primates are substantially evolutionarily removed yet demonstrate the same pattern of apparently nonpathogenic lentiviral infections, comparison of the biological behaviors of these viruses can yield important implications for host-lentiviral adaptation which are relevant to human HIV/AIDS infection. This review therefore evaluates similarities in epidemiology, lentiviral genotyping, pathogenicity, host immune responses, and cross-species transmission of FIVs and factors associated with the establishment of lentiviral infections in new species. This comparison of consistent patterns in lentivirus biology will expose new directions for scientific inquiry for understanding the basis for virulence versus avirulence.

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