Lymphocyte population changes in cats naturally infected with feline immunodeficiency virus


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Abstract

Robert V. EnglishFeline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) is associated with feline acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (FAIDS) and has been suggested as a model for HIV-induced human AIDS. The most obvious immunological defect in HIV infection is a reduction in CD4+ cell numbers and an inversion of the CD4:CD8 ratio. To determine whether the same is true in FIV infection, we analyzed by flow cytometry using a panel of monoclonal antibodies to feline lymphocyte populations the CD4:CD8 ratios in cats naturally infected with the virus. We report that 13 of 19 FIV-infected cats had ratios below the 5th percentile of normal cats (0.57, established from analysis of 39 normal cats) and 18 of 19 had ratios below 1. Repeated analyses over a period of several months revealed the inverted ratios to be consistent. Analysis of lymphocyte numbers in FIV-infected cats shows that the inverted ratios are due to a decrease in CD4+ T cells, while CD8+ T and B cells remain relatively normal in number. Analysis of a group of cats with a variety of other chronic diseases, including feline leukemia virus (FeLV) infections, revealed a near-normal distribution of CD4: CD8 ratios. These findings are similar to those in HIV infections and indicate that, like HIV, FIV causes a selective reduction in CD4+ cells and should be an excellent model for studying retrovirus-induced AIDS.

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