Pre-Chewed Food Can Transmit HIV to Infants

February 8, 2008

HIV Virus

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) of Atlanta, Georgia, mothers and other caregivers infected with the HIV virus who pre-chew (pre-masticate) food for infants can transmit the HIV virus to the children. While the practice is much more common in developing countries, especially African locations, the CDC found three cases in the United States: one in Memphis, Tennessee and two in Miami, Florida. One of the children died, while the other two who tested HIV-positive are on medication.


Dr. Ken Dominguez, Epidemiologist

Summarizing the findings of epidemiologist Dr. Ken Dominguez and other researchers at a Boston, Massachusetts meeting, the CDC said: “Pre-mastication is a newly recognized route for HIV transmission that warrants further investigation in order to continue reducing cases of HIV transmission in the U.S.…The findings could have more significant implications for developing countries…The researchers advise that health care providers and HIV-infected child caregivers should be aware of the potential health risks and should advise those caregivers against the practice of pre-chewing food for their infants.”

The practice principally occurs when mothers can’t afford prepackaged baby foods or lack access to a blender. It’s believed that blood from bleeding gums in HIV-infected caregivers which is contained in their saliva enters infant bloodstreams through the usual means of a cut or sore; inflammation of the digestive tract or mouth is also a means of entry. Investigators ruled out breast-feeding, blood transfusions and other possible means of infection in the study.

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