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Byline: Lawrence K. Altman The New York Times

A chimpanzee has developed AIDS more than a decade after it was injected with HIV-1, the main AIDS virus, scientists reported at a scientific meeting here Tuesday.

Transfusion of blood from the chimpanzee with AIDS to a healthy chimpanzee apparently produced AIDS in the second animal within a matter of months, suggesting that the virus mutated to become more virulent within the first chimpanzee.

The count of a special type of white cell in the blood critical for immune function, CD4, fell to very low levels in both chimpanzees. The CD4 count is a standard measurement of the progression of the AIDS virus.

HIV-1 has been injected into more than 100 chimpanzees in research centers throughout the world to learn more about the disease since the virus was discovered in the early 1980s. But the two chimpanzees are the first animals to develop AIDS, Dr. Francis J. Novembre of the Yerkes Regional Primate Research Center at Emory University in Atlanta told the more than 2,100 scientists at the meeting.

Novembre said his team was studying additional data to determine whether AIDS developed in the two chimpanzees as an oddity caused by a mutant strain, or whether it takes many years for chimpanzees to develop AIDS.

Novembre also said that studies were being done to determine whether the blood from the first chimpanzee contained a microbe that had not been detected in the primate and that might have caused the rapid development of AIDS in the second chimpanzee.

Scientists have been handicapped by the lack of a practical animal model to test drugs and vaccines against AIDS. It is not clear how practical the new findings are because chimpanzees, which are the primate closest to man, are an endangered species.

Nevertheless, the findings may shed new light on earlier studies in which a number of chimpanzees have been injected with experimental AIDS vaccines. Because chimpanzees have not been known to develop AIDS, many scientists have questioned the validity of any vaccine studies in the primates.

"So, if chimpanzees do develop AIDS," Novembre said in an interview, "then protection from a vaccine may be more relevant now and may validate the chimpanzee for vaccine and therapeutic studies."

The first chimpanzee to develop AIDS was inoculated with the AIDS virus three times, beginning in 1984 and through 1987. The chimpanzee did not develop symptoms of the disease AIDS until March 1995.
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Jan 31, 1996

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