Human and simian immunodeficiency virus (HIV and SIV) replicate optimally in activated memory CD4 T cells, a cell type that is abundant in the intestine. SIV infection of rhesus monkeys resulted in profound and selective depletion of CD4 T cells in the intestine within days of infection, before any such changes in peripheral lymphoid tissues. The loss of CD4 T cells in the intestine occurred coincident with productive infection of large numbers of mononuclear cells at this site. The intestine appears to be a major target for SIV replication and the major site of CD+ T cell loss in early SIV infection.
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