The T cell tropic retrovirus of macaque monkeys simian T lymphotropic virus type III (STLV-III) has morphologic, growth, and antigenic properties indicating that it is related to human T cell lymphotropic virus type III/lymphadenopathy-associated virus (HTLV-III/LAV), the etiologic agent of the acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS) of humans. STLV-III has recently been shown to induce an AIDS-like disease in macaque monkeys. In this study the humoral immune responses of six experimentally infected monkeys have been characterized to determine whether certain parameters of the antibody response to the virus might be predictive of the clinical outcome of this infection. Two distinct patterns of antibody responses were found. Four animals that died within 160 d of inoculation developed low titer anti-STLV-III antibody responses that recognized only the viral envelope protein, and progressive declines in total plasma IgG levels and absolute peripheral blood T4 lymphocyte numbers. The two animals that lived longer (one died at 352 d, the other remains alive at 430 d) developed high titer anti-STLV-III antibody responses that recognized both viral envelope and core proteins, increases in total plasma IgG, and a later decrease in number of peripheral blood T4 lymphocytes. Interestingly, the single animal that has remained clinically healthy after infection was the only one to develop detectable STLV-III neutralizing antibodies.
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