Maedi-visna virus (MVV)-specific cytotoxic T lymphocytes (CTL) were detected, after culture with MVV antigen and recombinant human interleukin-2, in the efferent lymph and peripheral blood of sheep chronically infected with MVV. Cytotoxicity was mediated by CD8 lymphocytes and was specific for particular strains of MVV. These precursor CTL were detected in the blood between day 23 and day 100 after infection via the skin. In one out of seven persistently infected sheep MVV-specific cytotoxicity was seen in uncultured peripheral blood cells. Again the effector population consisted of CD8 lymphocytes. The only other viral infections in which CTL have been detected in peripheral blood mononuclear cells prior to secondary stimulation are those caused by the simian and human immunodeficiency viruses.


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