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Progressive Immune Dysfunction In Cats Experimentally Infected With Feline Immunodeficiency Virus

M Torten, M Franchini, J E Barlough, J W George, E Mozes, H Lutz, N C Pedersen

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Within 6 months of infection with the Petaluma isolate of feline immunodeficiency virus, specific-pathogen-free domestic cats exhibited a decrease in the percentage and number of circulating CD4+ lymphocytes and in the CD4+/CD8+ T-cell ratio, along with a marginally significant depression of pokeweed mitogen-induced lymphocyte proliferation in vitro. There was no loss of responsiveness to concanavalin A during this stage, and the cats were capable of mounting a satisfactory antibody response to a T-dependent, synthetic polypeptide immunogen. The pokeweed mitogen response deficit became clearly demonstrable by 11 to 12 months postinfection. A decline in the lymphocyte proliferative response to concanavalin A and a diminished ability to mount an in vivo antibody response to the T-dependent immunogen evolved by 25 to 44 months postinfection. Virus infection did not affect the ability of cats to mount an antibody response to a T-independent synthetic polypeptide immunogen. These data indicate that feline immunodeficiency virus produces a slowly progressive deterioration of T-cell function but does not affect the ability of B cells to recognize and respond to a T-independent antigenic stimulus.