Studying SIV to Understand HIV

Courtesy of Frank Kiernan  PICTURE OF HEALTH? This 15-year-old mangabey at the Yerkes National Primate Research Center in Atlanta has been SIV-infected for at least 10 years. In the past, physicians who treated AIDS patients understood that this deadly disease was one of immune deficiency. Their patients were immunosuppressed, subject to opportunistic infections, and had odd cancers. Today, because of continuing research on the human and primate immune systems and their responses to retr

Myrna Watanabe
Jun 1, 2003
Courtesy of Frank Kiernan
 PICTURE OF HEALTH? This 15-year-old mangabey at the Yerkes National Primate Research Center in Atlanta has been SIV-infected for at least 10 years.

In the past, physicians who treated AIDS patients understood that this deadly disease was one of immune deficiency. Their patients were immunosuppressed, subject to opportunistic infections, and had odd cancers. Today, because of continuing research on the human and primate immune systems and their responses to retroviruses, AIDS researchers realize that the immunosuppression associated with AIDS is a result of chronic immune hyperactivation. Evidence for this comes from research on a primate called sooty mangabeys, which lives in equatorial Africa.

Sooty mangabeys normally contract simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV) through sexual contact. Despite evidence that SIV has direct toxic effects on CD4+ T cells, the monkey's immune system remains intact, as lost cells are replaced with new ones. This finding, published by Mark Feinberg...