A surefire way to suck the romance out of any kiss is to envision it as free shipping for germs. Recent research by British scientists sheds light on why that is actually a good thing.
Writing in the journal Medical Hypotheses, researcher Dr Colin Hendrie from the University of Leeds said: ‘Female inoculation with a specific male’s cytomegalovirus is most efficiently achieved through mouth-to-mouth contact and saliva exchange, particularly where the flow of saliva is from the male to the typically shorter female.’
Cytomegalovirus is likely to be only one of many germs which take advantage of kissing as a transfer system and which can confer benefits rather than harm to the recipient.
Cytomegalovirus, which lurks in saliva, normally causes no problems. But it can be extremely dangerous if caught while pregnant and can kill unborn babies or cause birth defects.
These can include problems ranging from deafness to cerebral palsy.
Kissing, over the course of several months and increasing in intensity, transfers small amounts of the virus each time. The result is a built up immunity to the virus, thereby cutting the risk of infection and potential damage to the fetus tremendously. Previous research had hypothesized that kissing was important because it conveyed fitness information about the individual through saliva. Given this new data and given that there are many other methods for determining fitness, kissing is not likely to have evolved as a means of determining fitness from an evolutionary perspective.
Dr Hendrie said: ‘Information concerning body tone, smell, reproductive condition, disease state and, of course, personal physical and oral hygiene can all be gained solely from close physical proximity.’
‘The small amount of additional information from kissing is an unlikely pressure for its development.’
People have subconsciously understood for a long time that germs can be transferred via kissing, hence that use of copious amounts of alcohol when strangers kiss. Clearly, it is being used as an antiseptic.