On the transmission of disease through a common communion cup

Eucharist icon“Bacteriological experiments have shown that the occasional transmission of micro-organisms is unaffected by the alcoholic content of the wine, the constituent material of the cup or the practice of partially rotating it, but is appreciably reduced when a cloth is used to wipe the lip of the cup between communicants. Nevertheless, transmission does not necessarily imply inoculation or infection. Consideration of the epidemiology of micro-organisms that may be transmitted via saliva, particularly the herpes group of viruses, suggests that indirect transmission of infection is rare and in most instances a much greater opportunity exists for direct transmission by other means. There is substantial evidence that neither infection with hepatitis B virus nor HIV can be transmitted directly via saliva so that indirect transmission via inanimate objects is even less likely. No episode of disease attributable to the shared communion cup has ever been reported. Currently available data do not provide any support for suggesting that the practice of sharing a common communion cup should be abandoned because it might spread infection.

Gill ON. The hazard of infection from the shared communion cup. J Infect. 1988; 16:3-23.

I know that there will be some people who will not be convinced, regardless of any studies. But, for priests who are having to face this subject over and over again, here is some evidence of a serious study by people specializing in infectious diseases. For those of you who are lay people, RELAX and freely partake in the Body and Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ. You are safe. Uhm, unless someone in the congregation has H1N1 and sneezes near you. But, that has nothing to do with the cup. A couple of other studies concluded that you would have a higher danger of infection from the Kiss of Peace than from the communion.

Gill ON. The hazard of infection from the shared communion cup. J Infect. 1988; 16:3-23.


  1. Athanasia says

    Father bless – thank you for sharing this. I have sent it to one of our life long Orthodox parishioners who voiced concerns over whether our parish was doing anything to prevent spreading the swine flu, especially all of sharing the spoon for the Eucharist. I hope is allays her fears.

  2. Janelle says

    I saw a headline in the NY Times about this. I didn’t waste my time reading the article!

    And handshakes for the Kiss of Peace are probably worse than an actual kiss on the cheek.

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