The Germy Perils of a French Kiss, Especially if You Are Short

PHOTO: A 10-second French kiss transfers 80 million bacteria, a new study found.Getty Images
A 10-second French kiss transfers 80 million bacteria, a new study found.

intro: There is perhaps nothing more romantic that a French kiss. Apparently there is also nothing more disgustingly filthy.

A new Dutch study published in the journal Microbiome found that swapping spit for about 10-seconds transfers up to 80 million bacteria between lovers. The shorter partner in the smooch may take on even more germs because, as the researchers helpfully noted, saliva travels downward.

The longer a couple stays together the more similar the microbes in their mouth become, the study found. And the more than 700 different species of bacteria that live and breed in the mouth are mostly healthy and beneficial.

However, if “sharing salivary microbiota” doesn’t sound like much of a turn on, consider these other ways of showing affection, along with their level of germiness.

quicklist: 1 category: Kiss Versus Handshake: Which Is Germier? title: Regular Kiss url: text: The Dutch study also revealed that couples only exchange about 1,000 germs in a straightforward lip lock. That’s fewer than found in a handshake. But a 2009 study found that during a chaste kiss, partners can transfer cytomegalovirus, a normally harmless pathogen that in rare cases leads to deafness or birth defects in unborn babies. The longer a couple stayed together, the less dangerous mouth-to-mouth viral transmission became, the study showed. media: 27028671

quicklist: 2 category: Kiss Versus Handshake: Which Is Germier? title: Handshake url: text: Taking the mouth out of the equation does not rid personal contact of microorganisms. One small West Virginia University investigation published earlier this year found that handshakes can transport up to 124 million colony-forming units of e. coli bacteria -- and that's assuming clean hands. More bacteria changed hands with a firmer grip and longer squeeze. media: 27028774

quicklist: 3 category: Kiss Versus Handshake: Which Is Germier? title: High Five url: text: High fives transfer just a quarter of the germs of a handshake, the West Virginia researchers reported. Longer duration high fives don’t seem to increase germ transfer but a good smack that covers a lot of the hand’s surface area might. media: 27028721

quicklist: 4 category: Kiss Versus Handshake: Which Is Germier? title: Fist Bump url: text: While perhaps the least sexy of the personal encounter studied, fist bumps also seem to be the best way to avoid cold and flu, according to the West Virginia study. Knocking knuckles measured 20 times less germy than a handshake. media: 27028886