A kiss can transfer 80 million bacteria — but they are not all ‘bad bugs’

2014-11-18 00:00

A RECENT study published in the journal Microbiome has shown as many as 80 million bacteria are transferred during a 10-second kiss.

Practising Pietermaritzburg dentist Dr Ilze Wessels said that although 80 million bacteria sounds like a high number, it is not as bad as it sounds.

“It sounds terrible, but we already have so many naturally occurring organisms that are so tiny, a million is a very small number,” said Wessels.

When people read the word “bacteria”, they immediately think of disease and infection; however Wessels says the study is nothing to worry about.

“It’s not necessarily bad bugs, but naturally occurring bacteria.”

Wessels said if the amount of bacteria transferred during a kiss makes you nervous, “rather stick to a kiss on the cheek or a friendly handshake”.

With the mouth a host to over 700 varieties of bacteria, the oral microbiota (microorganisms living in a particular habitat) also appear to be influenced by loved ones.

According to BioMed Central, researchers from Micropia and Netherlands Organisation for Applied Scientific Research (TNO) studied 21 couples and asked them to fill out questionnaires on their kissing behaviour. Swab samples were taken to investigate the composition of their oral microbiota on the tongue and in their saliva. The results showed when couples kiss often, their salivary microbiota become similar.

Lead author Remco Kort, from TNO’s Microbiology and Systems Biology department, said the current explanations for the kissing include an important role for the microbiota present in the mouth.

“We wanted to find out the extent to which partners share their oral microbiota, and it turns out, the more a couple kiss, the more similar they are,” said Kort.

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