No Danger of Disease from Holy Communion, Scientific Studies Say

Science agrees with the Church: Holy Communion does not spread sickness. No documented transmission of any infectious disease has ever been traced to the use of a common communion cup.

For 2000 years, during numerous times of widespread disease, pestilence, and even the black plague, priests have faithfully given communion to millions of Christians throughout the world. And there is no documented case of holy communion ever causing disease to spread.

For those who have faith in Christ, the reasons are obvious. But just for the sake of discussion, what do scientists have to say about it? Can science explain the reasons why?

The American Journal of Infection Control publishes the results of many scientific studies, addressing key issues in infection control and epidemiology. They publish peer-reviewed articles covering clinical topics as well as original research.

They published a study titled: Risk of Infectious Disease Transmission from a Common Communion Cup.​​​​​ Multiple doctors and medical professionals took part in the study, and their findings are clear:

"no documented transmission of any infectious disease has ever been traced to the use of a common communion cup"

According to the CDC itself, “the risk is so small that it is undetectable.” 

For those who have faith in Christ, none of this comes as a surprise. Orthodox Christians believe that holy communion is literally miraculous. It is not just bread and wine, merely reminding people of Christ's death and resurrection. According to Orthodox Christian teaching, God changes the bread and wine, so that it actually becomes the body and blood of Jesus. 

As Jesus himself said:

My flesh is food indeed, and My blood is drink indeed. He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him.

Of course, His statement — while true — cannot be investigated in a science laboratory. Peer-reviewed scientific journals usually don't publish studies involving supernatural events. 

So if scientists wanted to investigate the likelihood of catching disease from holy communion, what approach might they take?

Anne LaGrange Loving is a New Jersey microbiologist who has conducted studies on this very subject. She is an experienced professional in her field, a college professor, and has even made national headlines, uncovering the dangers of contaminated lemon wedges in restaurants.

She wanted to find out whether Holy Communion was a risky medium for spreading disease. The results of her investigation answered with a resounding "No."

From a scientific perspective, she said that “people who sip from the Communion cup don’t get sick more often than anyone else”.

When asked about her reasons for conducting these scientific investigations, she said,

“I’m a microbiologist and attend church. I had some concerns about what goes on at the Communion rail.”

She wanted to find out whether illnesses were caused by Communion. She studied 681 people in New Jersey over a 10-week period and found no difference in illness rates among those who attended church and received Communion, those who attended church and didn’t receive Communion, and those who never attended church.

“This even held true for the participants who attended church and received the sacraments every single day during the 10 weeks,” she wrote.

These particular scientific findings hold true, regardless of a person's particular faith or beliefs. Loving herself is Episcopalian. And while Protestants, Catholics, and Orthodox Christians have differing beliefs regarding the significance of Holy Communion, as long as they use real wine and a gold or silver chalice, the likelihood of spreading disease is virtually nonexistent.

"There is a difference sipping from a Communion cup and sipping a cup of coffee that someone left on the curb," she said.

As a microbiologist, she said the risk of infection is reduced because the chalice is wiped after each sip, the alcohol in the wine can kill germs and, unlike ceramic cups, the silver and gold used in most chalices doesn't harbor microbes.