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A serious condition, found mostly in young infants under six months of age (or newborn animals), in which the oxygen-carrying capacity of the blood is reduced as a result of a reaction with nitrite (NO2-), which changes the healthy hemoglobin to an inactive methemoglobin form.

As a result of the higher pH conditions in the gastrointestinal tract of infants and newborn animals, nitrate (NO3-), which is consumed in food or water, can be transformed into nitrite more readily than would occur with adults.