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To investigate whether vaccination of macaques with attenuated simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV)macC8 could induce long-term protective immunity against rectal exposure to SIVsm and intravenous exposure to the more divergent HIV-2.Eight months after vaccination with live attenuated SIVmacC8, four cynomolgus monkeys were challenged with SIVsm intrarectally and another four vaccinated monkeys were challenged with HIV-2 intravenously. Sixteen months after SIVmacC8 vaccination, another two monkeys were challenged with SIVsm across the rectal mucosa. Two vaccinees shown to be protected against SIVsm were rechallenged 8 months after the first challenge. Ten naive animals were used as controls. Serum antigenaemia, virus isolation, antibody responses, cell-mediated immunity and CD4+ and CD8+ T-cell subpopulations were monitored. PCR-based assays were used to distinguish between virus populations.At the time of challenge, eight out of 10 vaccinees were PCR-positive for SIVmacC8 DNA but no virus could be isolated from peripheral blood mononuclear cells. After SIVsm challenge, three out of six vaccinees were repeatedly SIVsm PCR-negative. In one of the three infected monkeys, the challenge virus was initially suppressed but the monkey ultimately developed AIDS after increased replication of the pathogenic virus. Rechallenged monkeys remained protected. All HIV-2- challenged vaccinees became superinfected. All controls became infected with either SIVsm or HIV-2. At the time of challenge the vaccinees had neutralizing antibodies to SIVmac but no demonstrable cross-neutralizing antibodies to SIVsm or HIV-2. Titres of antigen-binding or neutralizing antibodies did not correlate with protection. Cytotoxic T-cell responses to SIV Gag/Pol and virus-specific T-cell proliferative responses were low.The live attenuated SIVmacC8 vaccine was able to induce long-term protection against heterologous intrarectal SIVsm challenge in a proportion of macaques but not against the more divergent HIV-2, which was given intravenously.