Epidemiological results suggest that the etiological agent of the acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS) is transmitted primarily through blood products, semen, and saliva. There is evidence that the human T-cell leukemia (lymphotropic) virus type III (HTLV-III) is this agent. HTLV-III has been isolated repeatedly from T cells obtained from peripheral blood or lymph node tissue of AIDS and pre-AIDS patients and of healthy people believed to have been exposed to the virus. In the present study, HTLV-III was detected in and isolated from T cells present in the seminal fluid of AIDS patients. Mononuclear cells from the semen of AIDS patients and normal individuals were cultured in the presence of T-cell growth factor (interleukin-2). After 6 to 8 days, HTLV-III antigens were transiently expressed by the cells from the AIDS patients but not by those from the normal individuals. When the mononuclear cells from the semen of AIDS patients were cocultured with a permissive human T-cell line, cell cultures were produced that expressed high levels of reverse transcriptase activity, showed retroviral particles by electron microscopy, and were positive for HTLV-III-specific antigens when tested by fixed-cell indirect immunofluorescence with the use of monoclonal antibodies to the p24 and p15 antigens of HTLV-III.

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