Memorandum on the infections hazards of the common communion cup with especial reference to AIDS

Eur J Epidemiol. 1988 Jun;4(2):164-70. doi: 10.1007/BF00144745.


Bacteriological studies on the communion cup have shown that there is a low level of contamination with mouth organisms on the rim. The death rate of bacteria on the cup surface would not be significant, but the wine had a bactericidal effect on most but not all organisms tested. However droplets of saliva did not readily mix with the wine. In considering the spread of AIDS, extensive studies of people infected with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) in hospital or at home have shown that the established routes of spread are the injection of blood or blood products, sexual intercourse or at birth. There are only very rare examples of spread by other means. The virus is rarely isolated from the saliva and a study of homosexuals indulging in oral sexual intercourse suggests that it is very poorly infectious when taken into the mouth or swallowed. It is concluded that the risk of transmission of HIV by the common communion cup can be neglected under ordinary circumstances. Suggestions are made for improving the hygiene of the communion service which may be useful under special circumstances: there is no evidence that disease is spread in this way under normal conditions.

MeSH terms

  • Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome / prevention & control
  • Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome / transmission*
  • Christianity
  • Drinking
  • Equipment Contamination*
  • HIV / isolation & purification
  • Humans
  • Religion and Medicine*
  • Saliva / microbiology
  • Wine