Are bacteria that spread through a kiss good for you?

Are bacteria that spread through a kiss good for you?

Last Reviewed : 01/08/2021
Are bacteria that spread through a kiss good for you?

More than 100 trillion bacteria, with a variety as wide as 700 species, live in the human body. The mouth hosts millions of these bacteria to which you expose yourself every time you kiss someone on the mouth.

The variation in the microbial communities associated with the human body depends on factors like genetics, age, diet, surrounding environment, and sexual behavior.

Are there good bacteria?

While we often associate bacteria with infections and diseases, the bacteria in our bodies’ microbiome ecosystem is actually good for our bodies.

One of the better known good bacteria is probiotics. Some of their essential functions are food digestion and nutrient synthesis. Importantly, probiotics help fight off bad bacteria to us healthy.

Bacteria in the mouth float freely in the saliva, on the tongue, teeth, and cheeks. Kissing, a common act and show of affection in intimate relationships, is a regular source of exposure to foreign bacteria.

How much bacteria is transferred during a kiss?

Remco Kort and his team investigated the effects of intimate kissing on oral microbiota. The study, conducted in the Netherlands, included asking 21 couples to fill a questionnaire and collect saliva samples before and after an intimate kiss.

The questions asked on the study’s questionnaire were about their kissing behavior, including the average number of times respondents shared an intimate kiss in a day.

A controlled experiment was then done to quantify the transferred bacteria. For the experiment, three couples were chosen and a member of each was given a probiotic drink with specific bacteria like Lactobacillus and Bifidobacteria. They were then asked to kiss each other, after which their saliva samples were collected again.

Results from the study showed similar oral microbiome in partners who kissed each other at least 9 times a day or had kissed within the past hour.

Kort and his team calculated the probiotic bacteria in the partners of the three individuals who drank the probiotic yogurt drink and found that an estimated 80 million bacteria transferred in a 10-second kiss.

Kort summarized that “oral bacteria form a protective layer and help us protect against disease-causing microorganisms.” This protective layer is called a biofilm and acts as a barrier against the invading organisms.

Transfer of bacteria is a good thing. “What you’re doing is getting exposed to many bacteria. You gain additional species. In general, in microbiology, if you have more species you build up resistance. From this perspective, kissing is healthy”, concludes Kort.

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