Isn’t it romantic? Kissing exchanges millions of bacteria

In today’s instalment of ‘yep, people are gross’, next time you pucker up, you’ll probably get more than you bargain for. A lot more. According to a Dutch study, we can transmit up to 80 million bacteria just by locking lips for 10 seconds.

As the BBC reports, researchers from the Netherlands Organisation for Applied Scientific Research questioned 21 couples about their kissing habits and then took samples from their saliva and tongues before and after a 10-second kiss. One of the pair then drank a probiotic drink and the couple kissed again. After this, the scientists were able to measure how much bacteria was native to each person and how much was transferred by kissing. (What’s 80 million bacteria between friends?)

The researchers also found that couples who swapped spit nine times a day were more likely to transfer bacteria. (Not to mention the lip fatigue.) Says Professor Remco Kort, who led the research, ‘French kissing is a great example of exposure to a gigantic number of bacteria in a short time.’ Now there’s a pick-up line.

But apparently only some of those little wrigglers want to stay put on the tongue, so the researchers now plan to research what makes them more Velcro-like. (They should feel free to never tell me.) In the meantime, they’ve set up a ‘kiss-o-meter’ in conjunction with Amsterdam’s Micropia, the world’s first museum of microbes. Couples are invited to kiss and then receive an analysis of exactly which bacteria they’ve swapped.

More usefully, the scientists hope that having a more in-depth understanding of people’s bacterial make-up could increasingly be used in medical treatments. Who knows, maybe ‘kiss of life’ will even have a literal meaning in the future.

Image via Jon Rawlinson’s Flickr.

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