Wednesday, December 03, 2014


In the current issue of Science, By The Numbers: "80 MILLION -- Number of bacteria that can be transmitted during a 10-second kiss, according to a study in Microbiome."

That's it. Just a tossed-out fact. But enough to set my imagination reeling. That kiss this morning. Those teeming armies of microorganisms, swarming both ways, Vandal hoards, malevolent throngs, saliva-to-saliva, tongue-to-tongue. A 10-second rush of ugly organisms.

That tender osculatory moment -- an amoebic invasion.

And so to the journal Microbiome -- easy enough to find online -- to get the details. Researchers in the Netherlands asked couples for mouth swipes and kissing history. That's an illustration from the article above. Never mind the experimental details, which are exacting and considerable. Bacteria were duly traced, identified and counted.

And here's the somewhat reassuring bottom line. Me and my spouse very likely have pretty much the same oral microbiome. Fifty-six years of intimate smooching, sixty counting those premarital make-out sessions in the back seats of cars. But not just that. Living in the same house. Breathing the same air. Eating the same food. What else would you expect.

That sloppy exchange this morning probably didn't make much difference. Eighty million this way, a mostly identical eighty million that way. What do bacteria know. Maybe the grass always looks greener on the other side of the lips.

Anyway, there may be a good evolutionary reason for kissing, besides sexual arousal. You can read some possibilities here