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Twenty years of monkey research boosts AIDS knowledge

Research on an AIDS-like disease in monkeys continues to help scientists understand problems such as how HIV causes AIDS, how the virus "hides" from the immune system and how the disease might be prevented or treated, two decades after the human and monkey diseases were identified.

"These animals have been indispensable for understanding how the virus works and in working toward vaccines," said Murray Gardner, professor emeritus of medical pathology at the UC Davis Center for Comparative Medicine.

About 300 researchers from around the world will reflect on those past achievements and discuss new data when they gather Sept. 8-11 in Monterey, Calif., for the 20th Annual Symposium on Nonhuman Primate Models for AIDS. The California National Primate Research Center (CNPRC) at the University of California, Davis, is hosting the conference.

More than 20 years ago, scientists at the UC Davis primate center were confronted with a mysterious and deadly outbreak of infections in their monkeys. Showing signs of weakened immune systems, the monkeys were succumbing to a variety of infections that normally did not cause disease.

At about the same time, a deadly new disease known as AIDS was making the headlines. Bearing a striking resemblance to the monkey syndrome, the human disease also led to opportunistic infections, wasting and death.

Scientists would later discover that the monkey disease, called simian AIDS, was caused by the simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV), a close relative of the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) that causes human AIDS.

The striking similarities between the human and simian disorders and the viruses that cause them enabled scientists to gain otherwise unobtainable insights into the origins and progression of human AIDS -- work that continues today.

Today, scientists at the UC Davis center are using the SIV monkey model of AIDS to study ways to vaccinate against HIV transmission from adult to a
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Contact: Patricia Bailey
pjbailey@ucdavis.edu
530-752-9843
University of California - Davis
27-Aug-2002


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