Isolation of T-lymphotropic retrovirus related to HTLV-III/LAV from wild-caught African green monkeys

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Science  22 Nov 1985:
Vol. 230, Issue 4728, pp. 951-954
DOI: 10.1126/science.2997923


Present evidence suggests that the acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS) emerged in Central Africa as a new disease in recent decades. This disease has recently approached epidemic proportions in many parts of the world. The etiologic agent of AIDS is believed to be the virus HTLV-III/LAV, which has been proposed as having originated from a recent simian-human transmission in Africa. This report describes the isolation of a designated STLV-IIIAGM retrovirus closely related to HTLV-III/LAV from seven healthy wild-caught African Green monkeys (Cercopithecus aethiops) that showed the presence of antibodies designated STLV-IIIAGM. In vitro growth characteristics, ultrastructural morphology, and major proteins of 160,000 kilodaltons (kD), 120 kD, 55 kD, and 24 kD are similar to and cross-reactive with the analogous antigens of HTLV-III/LAV. The use of these serologic markers in the detection of STLV-IIIAGM-infected monkeys may be important in assuring the continued safety of a variety of biologic reagents that are derived from these primate species. The existence of a retrovirus closely related to HTLV-III/LAV that naturally infects an African nonhuman primate in the apparent absence of disease may provide a unique model for the study of human AIDS and the development of an effective vaccine.