By Dr Kizito Lubano
A passionate kiss often leads to one thing or another. Quite unexpected from the sensual feeling that comes with it, there may lay a ‘catch’; kissing, although sweet, can lead to infections.
In fact, there is a ‘kissing disease’ known as mononucleosis, or mono.
This is one of the prototypical sexually transmitted diseases that lovers can get from some romantic interludes. Apart from mononucleosis, there are varied infections that can be spread through kissing.
When a person accidentally consumes microbe-contaminated items such as saliva during kissing, the swallowing action of the tongue wipes the microbes against the back of the throat, allowing the microbe to enter the body.
Infections such as mononucleosis are caused by the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) and Cytomegalovirus (CMV), via oral transmission, from virus-containing saliva.
Kaposi sarcoma is however caused by a Herpes virus known as Human Herpes Virus 8 (HHV-8). The virus can also be transmitted through kissing.
Other infectious microbes that spread through saliva do so by sticking to the inner surface of the cheeks and mouth, tongue, or teeth. An example is the bacterium Streptococcus, which can cause an array of infections, including gum disease and strep throat.
It is important to remember that the surfaces of the respiratory tract (nose, mouth, and throat) are continuous and made up of similar tissues. As a result, microbes found in the saliva can generally be found in other parts of the respiratory tract, including the nose and throat. Therefore, even colds, flus and other respiratory infections can potentially be spread through the saliva.
Diseases from mouth sores
Cold sores are caused by the Herpes Simplex Virus-1 (HSV-1). In contrast to infections spread through the saliva, HSV-1 is spread through open cold sores on the lips or near the mouth. Although the infection is contagious through all stages of a cold sore, the infection is most contagious when the sore is open and leaking fluid.
Hand, foot, and mouth disease
Hand, foot, and mouth disease caused by Coxsackie virus, is another infectious disease spread through open sores in the mouth.
It is common in kids, especially those in day-care or pre-school settings because it mainly spreads via the faecal-oral route; a common problem in day cares, since changing of diapers goes on all day.Canker sores are not infectious.