Infection of macaques with simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV) and human immunodeficiency virus type 2 (HIV-2) are useful models for studies of immunotherapy and vaccination against HIV as well as for testing of antiviral drugs. Vaccine research showing protective immunity in immunized monkeys has indicated that it will be possible to develop a vaccine for prevention of human HIV infection, although many hurdles remain. The design of an HIV vaccine would be helped if the basis of the protective immunity could be elucidated. Passive immune prophylaxis offers a means to determine the relative role of antibodies in protection against infection. We have studied whether a transfer of antibodies can prevent HIV-2 and SIVsm (SIV of sooty mangabey origin) infection in cynomolgus monkeys. Sera with high antibody titres were collected, heat-treated and injected into naive animals 6 h before challenge with 10-100 monkey-infectious doses of live homologous virus. All control animals treated with normal monkey serum (n = 6) or no serum (n = 39) became infected by the challenge virus, whereas five out of seven animals pretreated with antibody-containing serum at a dose of 9 ml kg-1 resisted infection. Thus passively transferred antibodies can protect against a low-dose lentivirus challenge in a nonhuman primate.