The rapid emergence of AIDS in humans during the period between 1980 and 2000 has led to extensive efforts to understand more fully similar etiologic agents of chronic and progressive acquired immunodeficiency disease in several mammalian species. Lentiviruses that have gene sequence homology with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) have been found in different species (including sheep, goats, horses, cattle, cats, and several Old World monkey species). Lentiviruses, comprising a genus of the Retroviridae
family, cause persistent infection that can lead to varying degrees of morbidity and mortality depending on the virus and the host species involved. Feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) causes an immune system disease in domestic cats (Felis catus
) involving depletion of the CD4+ population of T lymphocytes, increased susceptibility to opportunistic infections, and sometimes death. Viruses related to domestic cat FIV occur also in a variety of nondomestic felids. This is a brief overview of the current state of knowledge of this large and ancient group of viruses (FIVs) in South America.