It is an international symbol of love and romance. But the kiss may have evolved for reasons that are far more practical – and less alluring.
British scientists believe it developed to spread germs.
They say that the uniquely human habit allows a bug that is dangerous in pregnancy to be passed from man to woman to give her time to build up immunity.
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.
The cytomegalovirus up close
These can include problems ranging from deafness to cerebral palsy.
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.’
Kissing the same person for about six months provides optimum protection, he added.
During a relatively chaste first kiss, just a small amount of virus is passed to the woman, cutting her odds of becoming ill.
As the relationships progresses and the kisses become more passionate, her immunity builds up.
By the time she becomes pregnant, the odds of her unborn baby becoming infected are much lower.
Previously scientists have claimed that kissing acts as a form of evolutionary quality control, with saliva holding clues to fertility, health and genes.
But the psychologists from Leeds and the University of Central Lancashire said these things can be judged without getting quite so intimate.
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.’
Via Daily Mail