The evolution of simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV)–specific cytotoxic T lymphocyte precursors (CTLps) and their relationship with virus replication were studied in SIV‐infected macaques. After primary viremia, 3 of 8 macaques lost culturable virus and polymerase chain reaction–detectable provirus in peripheral blood. Although proviral DNA persisted in the spleen and lymph nodes, virus loads were below or barely above detection levels. Throughout the study, the 3 macaques remained asymptomatic, with stable CD4+ cell counts. These findings were associated with the detection of CTLps directed against both structural and regulatory SIV proteins. The response peaked during the first 7 months of infection but waned subsequently. CTLps increased after rechallenge of 1 macaque, suggesting that limited antigenic stimulation contributed to their disappearance from circulation. Transient viremia with increasing CTLp frequencies and antibody titers also suggested at least partial susceptibility to reinfection. These findings bear implications for vaccination strategies aimed at inducing protective CTLs against lentiviruses.

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The Journal of Infectious Diseases
Erasmus MC: University Medical Center Rotterdam

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