A federal investigation into a Florida dentist's death from AIDS indicates three of his patients were infected with the virus in his office, a newspaper reported Friday.

The three patients of Dr. David Acer of Stuart, Fla., were infected with viral strains very similar to the dentist's, the Los Angeles Times reported, quoting unnamed sources familiar with the investigation.None of the patients were in a high-risk group for HIV infection and their viral strains were dissimilar to other strains found in their community, further indicating a connection to Acer, said investigators from the federal Centers for Disease Control.

CDC spokesman Kent Taylor would not confirm the newspaper report but said the center would release new information in Acer's case next week.

It remains unclear how the virus was transmitted. In a November interview, Dr. Harold Jaffe, the CDC epidemiologist in charge of the investigation, said equipment contamination and other possibilities were being considered.

Acer, a bisexual, may have contaminated his equipment by working on his own teeth or possibly on the teeth of one of his sexual partners, Jaffe said.