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Why some primates, but not humans, can live with immunodeficiency viruses and not progress to AIDS
Date:9/16/2008

Key differences in immune system signaling and the production of specific immune regulatory molecules may explain why some primates are able to live with an immunodeficiency virus infection without progressing to AIDS-like illness, unlike other primate species, including rhesus macaques and humans, that succumb to disease.

Following the identification of HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) as the cause of AIDS 25 years ago, an extensive search was undertaken to identify the source of the virus. These studies led to the discovery that chimpanzees and sooty mangabeys are infected in the wild with simian immunodeficiency viruses (SIV), whose transmission to humans and macaques leads to AIDS.

Surprisingly, the natural hosts for the AIDS viruses, such as the mangabeys and numerous other African primate species who have been found to harbor SIVs in the wild, remain healthy despite infection. Understanding how the natural hosts evolved to resist the development of immunodeficiency disease has long represented a key unsolved mystery in our understanding of AIDS. Furthermore, definition of the mechanisms by which they resist disease could help explain the mechanisms underlying AIDS progression in humans.

A team of scientists from Yerkes National Primate Research Center and the Emory Vaccine Center has discovered that the immune systems of sooty mangabeys are activated to a significantly lower extent during SIV infection than are the immune systems of rhesus macaques, and that this difference may explain why SIV and HIV infection leads to AIDS in some primate species but not others.

"During both HIV infection in humans and SIV infection in macaques, the host immune system becomes highly activated, experiences increased destruction and decreased production of key immune effector cells and progressively fails as a result. In contrast, natural hosts for SIV infection, like sooty mangabeys, do not exhibit aberrant immune activation and d
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Contact: Holly Korschun
hkorsch@emory.edu
404-727-3990
Emory University
Source:Eurekalert

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