Live-attenuated simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV) protects macaques against challenge with pathogenic SIV. To evaluate the safety of such vaccines, an investigation of whether or not nef-deleted SIV could be reactivated in vivo by immune activation of the host was conducted. In addition, monkeys infected with apathogenic SIV/HIV-1 chimeric viruses, and two control monkeys that had suppressed replication of pathogenic SIV were examined. During the infection virus became undetectable or persisted at a low level of replication in all monkeys. At this time-point 11 monkeys were immune-activated by a vaccinia virus (VV) superinfection. After VV infection up to 80% of their lymphocytes showed expression of the activation markers CD25 and CD69 over 2 weeks. However, only the two non-progressing monkeys infected with pathogenic SIV showed a noticeable but transient enhancement of SIV replication and increased SIV antibody titres. By contrast, in monkeys infected with apathogenic immunodeficiency viruses no change in virus load was observed. Therefore, attenuated immunodeficiency viruses cannot be reactivated in vivo by a VV-induced immune activation.


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