HIV strain can infect monkeys
Scientists have created a strain of the human AIDS virus which is able to infect and proliferate in monkeys. This discovery is a major breakthrough in the search for a vaccine against AIDS. The team found that it was possible to infect macaque monkeys with HIV by altering a single gene in the human version of the virus, producing a strain called simian-tropic HIV-1 (stHIV-1).
Previously the best monkey models of AIDS had involved infection with SIV. SIV is often called a ‘cousin’ to HIV, as it causes a disease similar to AIDS in some monkeys. But SIV is not identical to HIV; for instance, the microbiocide gell Carraguard seemed effective in monkeys but did not show such promising results in humans.
When injected into the monkey, stHIV-1 reproduces almost as much as HIV does in humans. However, the animal then starts to suppress the virus and therefore does not develop AIDS. While this in itself may provide interesting clues to suppression of HIV, the model may need further changes to perfect it for testing therapies and vaccines.