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Characterization of a new simian immunodeficiency virus strain in a naturally infected Pan troglodytes troglodytes chimpanzee with AIDS related symptoms

Lucie Etienne1, Eric Nerrienet23, Matthew LeBreton4, Godwin Tafon Bibila5, Yacouba Foupouapouognigni2, Dominique Rousset2, Ahmadou Nana4, Cyrille F Djoko4, Ubald Tamoufe4, Avelin F Aghokeng16, Eitel Mpoudi-Ngole6, Eric Delaporte1, Martine Peeters1*, Nathan D Wolfe47 and Ahidjo Ayouba1

Author Affiliations

1 UMR145, Institut de Recherche pour le Développement (IRD) and Université Montpellier 1, Montpellier, France

2 HIV laboratory, Centre Pasteur du Cameroun, Yaounde, Cameroon

3 HIV/Hepatitis Laboratory, Pasteur Institute, Phnom Penh, Kingdom of Cambodia

4 Global Viral Forecasting (GVF), San Francisco, USA

5 Apes Action Africa, Yaoundé, Cameroon

6 Virology Laboratory CRESAR/IMPM/IRD, Yaoundé, Cameroon

7 Stanford University, Program in Human Biology, Stanford, California, USA

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Retrovirology 2011, 8:4  doi:10.1186/1742-4690-8-4

Published: 13 January 2011



Data on the evolution of natural SIV infection in chimpanzees (SIVcpz) and on the impact of SIV on local ape populations are only available for Eastern African chimpanzee subspecies (Pan troglodytes schweinfurthii), and no data exist for Central chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes troglodytes), the natural reservoir of the ancestors of HIV-1 in humans. Here, we report a case of naturally-acquired SIVcpz infection in a P.t.troglodytes chimpanzee with clinical and biological data and analysis of viral evolution over the course of infection.


A male chimpanzee (Cam155), 1.5 years, was seized in southern Cameroon in November 2003 and screened SIV positive during quarantine. Clinical follow-up and biological analyses have been performed for 7 years and showed a significant decline of CD4 counts (1,380 cells/mm3 in 2004 vs 287 in 2009), a severe thrombocytopenia (130,000 cells/mm3 in 2004 vs 5,000 cells/mm3 in 2009), a weight loss of 21.8% from August 2009 to January 2010 (16 to 12.5 kg) and frequent periods of infections with diverse pathogens.

DNA from PBMC, leftover from clinical follow-up samples collected in 2004 and 2009, was used to amplify overlapping fragments and sequence two full-length SIVcpzPtt-Cam155 genomes. SIVcpzPtt-Cam155 was phylogenetically related to other SIVcpzPtt from Cameroon (SIVcpzPtt-Cam13) and Gabon (SIVcpzPtt-Gab1). Ten molecular clones 5 years apart, spanning the V1V4 gp120 env region (1,100 bp), were obtained. Analyses of the env region showed positive selection (dN-dS >0), intra-host length variation and extensive amino acid diversity between clones, greater in 2009. Over 5 years, N-glycosylation site frequency significantly increased (p < 0.0001).


Here, we describe for the first time the clinical history and viral evolution of a naturally SIV infected P.t.troglodytes chimpanzee. The findings show an increasing viral diversity over time and suggest clinical progression to an AIDS-like disease, showing that SIVcpz can be pathogenic in its host, as previously described in P.t.schweinfurthii. Although studying the impact of SIV infection in wild apes is difficult, efforts should be made to better characterize the pathogenicity of the ancestors of HIV-1 in their natural host and to find out whether SIV infection also plays a role in ape population decline.