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Using nonhuman primates to model HIV transmission

Fennessey, Christine M.; Keele, Brandon F.

Current Opinion in HIV and AIDS: July 2013 - Volume 8 - Issue 4 - p 280–287
doi: 10.1097/COH.0b013e328361cfff
ANIMAL MODELS: Edited by Louis J. Picker and Dan H. Barouch

Purpose of review One of the major obstacles in fully understanding HIV transmission comes from the impracticality of studying transmission in humans. Because of this encumbrance, the early phases of HIV transmission and systemic dissemination are poorly understood. In order to fully comprehend these critical steps in HIV infection, animal models must be devised to accurately reflect HIV's mode of action. This review seeks to highlight the essential nature of modelling HIV transmission in nonhuman primates (NHPs).

Recent findings Recently, it was discovered that HIV infection is established in newly infected recipients by a single or few transmitted/founder variants. This has reshaped how animal modelling is conducted with researchers currently recapitulating a physiologically relevant, low-titre infection. Pertinent animal models have been established for the most common routes of infection, including rectal, vaginal and penile transmission; models for intravenous and oral transmission are still in developmental stages.

Summary These limited dose models now accurately reflect HIV transmission in humans and provide a realistic experimental platform for vaccine development and other intervention strategies that can be used to inform vaccine development in humans. Using information obtained in NHP and human trials, it is conceivable to envision effective prevention modalities in the near future.

AIDS and Cancer Virus Program, SAIC-Frederick, Inc., Frederick National Laboratory for Cancer Research, Frederick, Maryland, USA

Correspondence to Brandon F. Keele, PhD, Retroviral Evolution Section, AIDS and Cancer Virus Program, SAIC-Frederick, Inc, Frederick National Laboratory for Cancer Research, Building 535, Rm408, Frederick, MD 21702-1201, USA. Tel: +1 301 846 1731; fax: +1 301 846 5588; e-mail:

© 2013 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.