Transient SIV viremia after experimental SIV challenge has been documented. Whether SIV persists in these transiently viremic macaques remains unclear. In the present study, we applied a sensitive PCR and found persistent low levels of SIVmne infection (LLSI) (range: 0.1-5.3 SIV DNA copies/10(6) PBMC) in seven macaques that were transiently positive by conventional assays, which was 10(2)- to 10(6)-fold less than those of SIVmne infected monkeys with typical disease progression. SIV envelope V1 sequences remained homogeneous in these macaques for the 6-year study period, with a mean evolution rate of 0.005% per site per year, which was not different from zero (P = 0.612) and significantly lower than that (0.56-1.18%) in macaques with progressive infection of SIVmne. LLSI macaques have remained free from SIV-associated illness, and are still alive 10 years after virus inoculation. Understanding the mechanisms underlying this outcome may provide valuable insight into therapy and vaccine development.