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Diseases spread by kissing

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. Infectious diseases in saliva Infectious diseases are spread through several means. Oral transmission refers to spreading of microbes through saliva, foods or drinks. 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.

Infectious diseases in saliva Infectious diseases are spread through several means. Oral transmission refers to spreading of microbes through saliva, foods or drinks. 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 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.

In contrast to cold sores and Coxsackie virus blisters, canker sores have no infectious disease origin and cannot be spread through the saliva or kissing.

HIV and Hepatitis B Virus? HIV and Hepatitis B Virus (HBV) are blood-borne and sexually transmitted infections that have been found in the saliva. Despite the presence of HIV in saliva, there have never been any reports of HIV transmission via this route. In contrast, transmission of Hepatitis B virus through saliva has been well documented, as well as Hepatitis A and C. Saliva has a natural cleansing role provided by its flushing activity. Other anti-microbial defences in the saliva include antibodies and other anti-microbial proteins like lysozyme and normal mouth flora (the ‘good’ bacteria that prevents growth of ‘bad’ bacteria). The spread of infectious microbes through the saliva can occur when the natural resistance in the mouth is reduced. For example, gum infections can occur in people with Vitamin C deficiencies while thrush is caused by Candida II yeast infections, which is more likely to occur in people who have been taking antibiotics. People who are dehydrated have reduced salivary flow and four times more bacteria in their mouths.

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