So, you already know how the microbes on your skin, in your mouth and in your gut play a key role in your wellbeing. What you eat, drink and do for exercise can help keep these health-giving tiny living things happy. But new research suggests that your microbiome can be affected by other people’s. Here’s how:
A handshake is another opportunity for microbes to be transferred. Other greetings can dramatically reduce the passing on of microbes. Why not try a such as a high five or fist bump? Studies have shown that nearly twice as much bacteria can be transferred during a handshake compared with a high five.
It’s no surprise that you share more than your heart with a romantic kiss! Studies have shown that the tongue microbiome is much more similar in couples than unrelated individuals. “A shared salivary microbiome is more pronounced in couples with relatively high intimate kissing frequency,” says Kelli Proudfoot, head of scientific marketing at Premedy, an Australian health and wellness brand.
Paper currency provides another opening for the exchange of microbes. A US study of circulating one-dollar bills found that the notes collected DNA from the human microbiome. These monetary microbes can be maintained through frequent contact with human skin and may even provide a record of human behaviour and health.
Perhaps reconsider that five-second rule, which suggests that dropped food is safe to eat as long as you pick it up within five seconds. “Some transfer [of bacteria] takes place instantly,” says Kelli. Research has also found that the longer food lies on the floor, the more germs it accumulates.
If you're keen to reap the many health benefits of a strong microbiome, check out our story on how to keep your microbiome healthy.