The Tulane University National Primate Research Center in Louisiana has received a five-year grant of more than $2 million from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases to study the ability of African green monkeys to avoid progressing to AIDS after being infected with the simian version of HIV. "The host and virus seem to have developed a relationship over time, through evolution, so the infection isn't as harmful to this type of monkey as it is in other monkeys such as the rhesus macaque," says primate center director Andrew Lackner in a press release.
Rhesus monkeys typically developed AIDS two to four years after infection, the researchers say, and infected humans may not develop AIDS for five to 10 years. But studies have shown African green monkeys may not develop AIDS for at least 20 years, if ever. Lead researcher Ivona Pandrea says the incubation period of the virus appears to be longer than the lifes pans of the monkeys. She and her team hope to determine the precise immune system variations in green monkeys that allow them to escape the onset of AIDS in the hopes of possibly someday applying their findings to boosting the human immune system's ability to slow HIV disease progression and prevent the development of AIDS.