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Understanding the benign nature of natural SIV infection: Implications for AIDS pathogenesis

Simian immunodeficiency viruses (SIV) infections of natural hosts, including sooty mangabey (SM), African green monkeys (AGMs), and many other African non-human primate species, typically do not induce CD4+ T cell depletion and acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) despite chronic high levels of virus replication. In contrast, SIV infection of non-natural hosts, such as several macaque species, induces a disease that resembles AIDS in humans. The mechanisms underlying the lack of disease progression in SIV-infected SMs are incompletely understood, but certainly reflect a complex evolutionary adaptation whereby the host immune system is not significantly damaged by the highly replicating virus. It is now widely recognized that a better understanding of these mechanisms may provide clues to the pathogenesis of immunodeficiency in HIV-infected humans. In this presentation we will review and discuss: (1) the evidence supporting a key role for the absence of generalized immune activation in maintaining natural SIV hosts disease-free; (2) the potential mechanisms underlying the different level of immune activation in natural versus non-natural HIV/SIV hosts; and (3) the similarities and differences in the way SIV infection affects the mucosal immune system in natural versus non-natural hosts.

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Open Access This article is published under license to BioMed Central Ltd. This is an Open Access article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 International License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

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Silvestri, G. Understanding the benign nature of natural SIV infection: Implications for AIDS pathogenesis. Retrovirology 3 (Suppl 1), S94 (2006).

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