Aug 28, 2002
Dear Dr.Kull; A week ago, while playing with the monkeys, I got the saliva of one of the monkeys into my left eye. I read some articles on the net which state that the most of the SIV strains found in monkeys are almost identical to HIV-2 and might cross the species barrier to infect humans. However, you once said in your one of your responses that SIV does not cause infection and illness in humans, but from what I read there are two cases reported by the CDC about two healthcare workers accidentally exposed to the SIV infected blood from the monkeys and both were seropostive with HIV-2 and SIV. I also learnt that there is a high cross reactivity to tests between HIV-2 and SIV. I would like to hear from you regarding these issues. Also, can I get infected from the monkey or the viral load in the monkeys saliva is so small (same as in humans) to become infectious and do I need to get test for HIV-2? Can I develop AIDS or an AIDS like disease from SIV infection? BTW, I live in Thailand and the monkeys are city monkeys, not the ones living in the wild. Thanks in advance for your answer. Right now, Im very nervous.
Response from Mr. Kull
I'm not aware of any documentation of SIV (simian immunodeficiency virus) causing illness in humans. Research has shown that strains of SIV and HIV are similar, and that there is good reason to believe that HIV evolved from SIV. However, saying that you are at risk for HIV infection because of exposure to a monkey's saliva is a real stretch. The science of HIV's origin is complex and incomplete.
I believe I know the CDC study to which you are referring. In an attempt to identify the prevalence of SIV infection among lab workers and animal handlers, random blood samples were tested for SIV infection using HIV-2 antibody tests (HIV-2 antibody testing has very high cross-reactivity with SIV antibodies). Three samples tested positive for HIV-2/SIV; the study did not distinguish between HIV-2 and SIV infection, so those samples could have been infected with EITHER HIV-2 or SIV (there's no evidence that they were infected with BOTH).
If you are concerned about infection with HIV-1/2, all you need to do is get tested for those types of HIV. Ultimately, infection with SIV will not be relevant to you.
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