Researchers have uncovered the first cases in which HIV almost certainly was transmitted from mothers or other caregivers to children through pre-chewed food.
The source of HIV in the prechewed food was most likely the infected blood in the saliva of the people who pre-chewed the food before giving it to the children.
The researchers said their findings suggest that HIV-infected mothers or other caregivers should be warned against giving infants pre-chewed food and directed toward safer feeding options.
The cases indicate that physicians and clinics should routinely include questions about pre-chewing food in their health screening of infant caregivers who have HIV or are suspected of the infection. Also, possible cases of HIV transmission through pre-chewed food should be reported to public health agencies to help increase understanding of the prevalence of such transmission.
Led by Aditya Gaur, M.D., of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, with colleagues from St. Jude (Marion Donohoe, CPNP), the University of Miami (Charles Mitchell, M.D., and Delia Rivera, M.D.) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (Kenneth Dominguez, M.D., Marcia Kalish, Ph.D., and John Brooks, M.D.), the researchers published their findings in the August 2009 issue of the journal Pediatrics. Gaur is an assistant member of the St. Jude Infectious Diseases department.
Giving infants prechewed food has been reported to transmit infections such as streptococcus and the hepatitis B virus, Gaur said. However, until these cases there was no evidence that the blood-borne HIV could be similarly transmitted. The source of blood in the saliva of the person pre-chewing the food for the child may likely have been visible or microscopic bleeding from the gums or some other part of the mouth, he added.
In their paper, the researchers described three cases in which pre-chewed food was likely the source of HIV transmission to infants.
“Importantly, this report does not challenge the accepted belief that saliva does not carry HIV and that transmission does not occur in kissing,” Gaur said. “The exception is that transmission can occur when the people involved have damaged mucosa in their mouths, and blood is mixed with the saliva.”
Source: St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, USA