Alternatives to the traditional handshake greeting—like fist bumps and high fives—transfer significantly fewer bacteria between greeters, according to a new study in the American Journal of Infection Control.
For the study, participants wore gloves coated in a solution of non-pathogenic E. coli bacteria and then traded off shaking hands, high-fiving, and fist-bumping with participants wearing sterile gloves.
Researchers examined the amount of bacteria transferred during each greeting and found that fist-bumping transferred about 90% fewer bacteria than handshakes, and high-fiving transferred about 50% fewer bacteria.
According to the study, handshakes tend to pass on more bacteria because they result in a larger area of contact, and because of their "increased duration and grip."
Study co-author Dave Whitworth, a biologist at Aberystwyth University in the United Kingdom, says, "People rarely think about the health implications of shaking hands" but "if the general public could be encouraged to fist bump, there is genuine potential to reduce the spread of infectious diseases" (Kearney, Reuters, 7/28; Foster, HealthDay, 7/28; Alter, TIME, 7/28).
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