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Fist Bumps are ‘Cleaner’ than Handshakes

Update Date: Jul 28, 2014 09:28 AM EDT

If people want to avoid catching germs, fist bumping might be a better option than the traditional handshake. A new study examined how many bacteria three modes of greeting can transfer between two people. The researchers from Aberystwyth University in Wales reported that during the flu season or outbreaks, in order to reduce one's chances of contracting germs, people should fist bump instead of shaking hands.

"And there are alternatives to handshakes. You see them on telly all the time - the fist bump and high-five and all that," researcher David Whitworth said according to Fox News.

For this study, Whitworth and student Sara Mela conducted a series of experiments in which they fist bumped, shook hands and high-fived each other. One of the experimenters wore a glove full of bacteria while the other one wore a clean, sterilized glove. The researchers measured the amount of bacteria present on the gloves after each greeting.

The researchers found that the fist bump was the most sanitary greeting. There were significantly fewer bacteria on the glove after fist bumping in comparison to the two other greeting methods. Hand shaking transferred the most bacteria. The team reasoned that when people fist bump, there is less surface area for bacteria to transfer. To test this surface area theory, the researchers conducted the same series of experiments with paint to measure how much paint was transferred in each greeting. Fist bumping, once again, transferred the least amount of paint.

Mary Lou Manning, the president-elect of the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology, stated that even though the study was "novel," the results were not surprising. Whitworth added that with concrete evidence that shaking hands can spread bacteria, people should avoid it, especially in the medical setting.

"There is definitely a serious side to this story, superficially it is very whimsical, but there is a serious message underneath," Whitworth told the BBC News. "If there's a flu pandemic then handshaking might be something you want to think about or in a hospital with the spread of superbugs."

The study was published in the American Journal of Infection Control.

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