Are You Going To Kiss Me with that Mouth?

In 2001 Nobel Laureate Joshua Lederberg coined the term the term ‘microbiome’ to mean “the ecological community of commensal, symbiotic, and pathogenic microorganisms that literally share our body space and have been all but ignored as determinants of health and disease.” A PMC search for the term results in 3255 paper indicates the rapid growth of this field.

A while back, I wrote about the 112th General Meeting of the American Society of Microbiologist. At the same meeting, there was another presentation on bacteria found in the mouth of dogs and their owner’s skin.

Now before people start washing with 70% IPA and soaking in triclosan, we might recall the Hygiene hypothesis; it posits a degree of microbial exposure is good for our health. There is good evidence that suggests we require some degree of microbial burden in order to develop normal immunoregulatory mechanisms. My post on asthma and dogs might be an indication of those mechanisms in action.

Dewhirst et al of the Forsyth Institute sampled the mouth of dogs for bacteria. He reports 353 bacterial taxa, many of them previously unknown and 80% of them lacking a formal name.

They also report that swaps from arms found as many as 50 different types of canine oral bacteria on human skin. Don’t panic, you have several hundred types of bacteria normally living on your skin.

And before you start feeling smug, in a 2010 paper Dewhirst identified 1179 bacterial taxa in the human mouth. At least for now, we can answer that troubling question, “Who has a cleaner mouth, human or dog?”

Maybe it’s the dog who should be asking, “Are you going to kiss me with that mouth?


The Human Microbiome Project: Extending the definition of what constitutes a human

The Human Microbiome Project Collection


Dewhirst FE, Klein EA, Thompson EC, Blanton JM, Chen T, Milella L, Buckley CM, Davis IJ, Bennett ML, Marshall-Jones ZV.  (2012). The canine oral microbiome.  PLoS One.; 7(4):e36067. Epub 2012 Apr 27. OPEN ACCESS

Dewhirst FE, Chen T, Izard J, Paster BJ, Tanner AC, et al. (2010) The human oral microbiome. Journal of Bacteriology. ;192:5002–5017. OPEN ACCESS

2 thoughts on “Are You Going To Kiss Me with that Mouth?

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