If it stops politicians kissing babies, then something good will have come out of the latest cot death scare. Imagine the scene. Portly transport minister gladhanding crowd on the eve of the next election grabs infant from startled mother. Instead of managing a submissive grin as he plants a smacker on her baby's plump cheek, she shrieks at him: "Put my child down - you might give her Helicobacter pylori!"
It certainly isn't instinct that drives a Prescott or a Hague to kiss babies (leave Blair out of this, since he's got one of his own and may get confused) - it's votes. But it (used to) play well with the crowd because it's such a natural thing to do. Mums and dads smother their babies with kisses. So do grandparents. So do sisters and brothers. Are they all going to have to keep their distance now, for fear that they may be bringing death to the cradle?
It really doesn't make sense. If we weren't meant to kiss them, babies would not be so pudgy and kissable. This cot death story needs closer analysis.
What has happened? A group of scientists in Manchester who work on infectious diseases have collaborated with a paediatric pathology department to investigate a theory that sudden infant death syndrome (Sids) or cot death is caused by the presence of a bacterium called Helicobacter pylori, found in the stomach of adults suffering from peptic ulcers.
The Manchester researchers found DNA of Helicobacter pylori in the stomach, windpipe and lung of 25 out of 32 babies whose death was put down to Sids. They looked at eight babies whose death was ascribed to a specific cause - and therefore not Sids - and found only one with Helicobacter pylori.
What this amounts to, they say, is "a highly significant association" between Sids and the bacterium. In other words, where you get Sids - or rather in 25 out of 32 Sids babies - you get H pylori. But in seven out of 32, you do not, and in one out of eight who died of some thing else, you also find the bacterium. This is an association which has yet to be explained. It is not simply cause and effect.
And kissing? There was nothing about it in the research paper published in the journal Archives of Disease in Childhood. Bacteria have to get from one place to another somehow, but this was a speculation too far, as was licking children's dummies.
It's a speculation too far because it terrifies the wits out of people who are are probably best off following their baby-rearing instincts. Human young need to be exposed to all kinds of bacteria in order to build up an immunity to them, and if we all stop kissing babies, imagine how the psychologists will reproach us in years to come.
The trouble is that nobody has a sense of proportion when it comes to cot death. Not only do scares hit the headlines, but they stick. Look at the toxic cot-mattress story - that a baby's urine combines with fire-retardant chemicals to produce gases. It was nonsense. The chief medical officer commissioned a report from independent scientists which demonstrated (at huge cost) that it was nonsense. But the anxieties linger. Look at the research suggesting a link between cot death and flying. Hundreds of people phoned the helpline of the Foundation for the Study of Infant Deaths for reassurance.
Research is invaluable, says the foundation, which funds most of it. But the truth is that there has not been and probably never will be a shout of Eureka! from the lab on this one. There has been a massive fall in the numbers of cot deaths, thanks to the sensible advice from the Foundation that babies should be put to sleep on their backs and kept away from cigarette smoke.
Cot death is a label for deaths for which no cause has been found. There are almost certainly lots of different reasons why babies unexpectedly die, and depriving them of kisses - even, unfortunately, politicians' kisses - is not going to make the least bit of difference.