As part of an titration study of the macaque simian immunodeficiency virus (SIVmac) strain 251/spl, macaques were inoculated intravenously with various dilutions of this infectious SIVmac. Seven animals received dilutions from 10 to 10 of SIVmac. Two monkeys infected with the 10 dilution of SIVmac exhibited a productive infection as indicated by seroconversion, detection of genomic RNA and proviral DNA and positive virus isolation. These animals showed a cytotoxic T cell (CTL) response against different SIVmac proteins without any measurable T cell proliferation. The five macaques receiving higher virus dilutions did not seroconvert and were negative for both viral RNA and for infectious virus, although proviral DNA was detected in their peripheral blood mononuclear cells. In contrast to the animals receiving the 10 virus dilution, these five silently infected monkeys developed an SIV-specific proliferative T cell response but SIV-specific CTL could not be observed. The SIV-specific T cell proliferation of the silently infected animals could be boosted by a second low-dose exposure with a 10 or 10 dilution of SIVmac. The virological status of the animals was not changed following this second virus inoculation. Four months later these macaques were challenged intravenously with 2 ml of a 10 dilution of SIVmac containing 10 monkey ID. After this challenge all SIV-pre-exposed animals and three naive controls became productively infected. In addition, all infected animals developed typical signs of an immunodeficiency within 6 months after infection. These observations indicate that macaques infected silently by a low-dose exposure to infectious virus generated a virus-specific cellular immune response. However, SIV-specific T cell proliferation alone could not protect the monkeys against an intravenous challenge with SIVmac and the subsequent development of AIDS-like symptoms.


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