New research suggests that babies can potentially contract HIV from food HIV-positive mothers pre-chew for them, reports The New York Times (, 2/7). Researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported on February 6 that out of the thousands of documented HIV infections in U.S. babies in the past 15 years, three cases were determined to have been caused by pre-chewed food.

Pre-chewing food is a practice that occurs in the United States and abroad. The research, presented at the 15th Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections, suggests that the transmission of HIV through this practice may be a problem particularly in developing countries where commercial baby foods and blenders aren’t available, and dental care may be lacking.

The Times reports that though HIV is present in saliva, it is usually in amounts too small to be transmitted. However, if the chewers in the CDC findings had open mouth sores or inflammations, they may have passed the virus through the food to the infants, who in turn may have had cuts in their mouths or other common teething conditions.