SCIENCE
11/17/2014 03:02 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

A Single Kiss Can Transfer Way More Germs Than You Ever Knew

Kissing just got a whole lot less romantic--at least for germaphobes.

A new study shows that a single French kiss can transfer up to 80 million bacteria from one person to another.

For the study, 21 couples visiting a zoo in Amsterdam were asked to lock lips for 10 seconds. Before the kiss, one member of each couple drank a yogurt drink containing specific strains of bacteria. After the kiss, the researchers swabbed the mouth of the partner who hadn't drunk the yogurt, and then did a bacterial count of the strains from the yogurt to arrive at the 80 million figure.

That certainly sounds icky. But before you swear off your sweetheart's lips, you should know that there's nothing inherently dangerous about transferring germs. In fact, the researchers say it can be a good thing.

"If you increase the diversity of good bacteria, you can increase resistance against infection," lead study author Dr. Remco Kort, a microbiologist at the Netherlands Organization for Applied Scientific Research and a professor of microbial genomics at the University of Amsterdam, told The Huffington Post. "We know that one of the functions of the bacteria we cary with us is they’re protecting us from disease-carrying microorganisms. From this point of view, it could be healthy."

The findings inspired the creation of a "Kiss-O-Meter" at the Micropia museum in Amsterdam, which allows visitors to measure how many bacteria, and what kinds, they exchange during a kiss.

(Story continues below image.)
kiss o meter
Dr. Remco Kort, the lead author of a new study of kissing, stands near the Kiss-O-Meter that was developed for Amersterdam's Micropia museum.

"We all associate microorganisms with unhygienic conditions, and food spoilage or disease, but part of the mission [of the museum] is to show their benefits." Kort said. "It would be good to get to know them because they play an essential role in our bodies. Microorganisms evolved on our planet for billions of years and they may provide solutions for human problems."

The study was published online today in the journal Microbiome.

HuffPost

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