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Fist bumps spread fewer germs than handshakes: study

Aberystwyth, U.K. – Fist-bumping transmits significantly fewer bacteria between people than either handshaking or high-fiving, according to a recent study from the Institute of Biological, Environmental and Rural Sciences at Aberystwyth University.

For the study, a greeter immersed a sterile-gloved hand in a container of germs. Once the glove was dry, the greeter exchanged a handshake, fist bump or high five with a sterile-gloved recipient. Exchanges varied in duration and intensity of contact. The gloves of the recipients were then immersed in a solution to count the bacteria transferred during contact.

Nearly twice as many bacteria were transferred during a handshake than with a high five, while the fist bump consistently transmitted the least bacteria. In all three forms of greeting, transmission of bacteria is greater with longer contact and stronger grip.

Researchers pointed out that handshakes are common in many social and professional contexts, and that health care professionals are encouraged to greet patients with handshakes. The use of fist bumps as an alternative to the handshake could help improve public health, they said.

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