Kissing is now a norm rather than an exception in today’s society. We are in the days of Masaku Sevens and related activities - young people are not afraid to publicly display affection.

I wouldn’t like to pry into other people’s bedrooms, but I believe there must be a lot of kissing going on behind closed doors. This, on face value, would mean there is love in the air. But no, it’s not just love. Millions of bacteria too are involved in the mix.

“When lovers kiss, they exchange a lot of bacteria through their saliva,” says Dr Lubano Kizito. “The human mouth contains a lot of bacteria. Depending on one’s state of health, the oral cavity may contain germs as well as good bacteria.”

According to Dr Kizito who works with Kenya Medical Research Institute, the mouth is a common conduit for the spreading of germs, and therefore, infections and diseases. It may be given and received for love, but may as well lead to harm.

Dr Kizito says that there are probably hundreds of diseases transmissible through a kiss. Herpes, syphilis, flue, viral diseases like Hepatitis B as well as  fungal infections are easily transmitted through the mouth.

In his opinion, it is advisable to keep off kissing to avoid such risks. He adds: “At times, the person you kiss may be immune to whatever bacteria they harbour in their mouths. The germs however turn into lethal once they find their way into your mouth, causing disease. In many cases, bacteria transmitted through kissing are tamed by one’s immune system, this is not always the case.”

Severe cases synonymous with kissing are tooth decay and meningitis. Meningococcal bacteria are responsible for meningitis, a disease in which the membranes covering the brain get inflamed. In most cases, the disease is fatal. Dr Kizito points out studies which have indicated that kissing is a risk factor.

As for tooth decay, bacteria that are responsible for gingivitis – infection of the gums – as well as cavity, get into a healthy person’s mouth whenever they kiss someone who is infected. The harm they cause is similar to the harm they have done to the host.

In a previous interview, Dr Richard Muraga of Kenyatta National Hospital brought to fore the fact that love bites can even cause death. This is because germs in the mouth may cause havoc when introduced in the blood stream. Even when regular brushing of teeth is involved, he said, not all bacteria and germs are cleared as they number millions.

It is said love is a beautiful thing that equally has dangerous aspects to it. The kissing part could be one.