Scientists based at Wales’ Aberystwyth University have stated that a handshake transfers more bacteria than any other form of hand-on-hand action.
They are calling for people to make use of the fist bump instead, particularly during flu epidemics.
Public Health England amusingly suggested that a Victorian-age curtsy or bow would be a safer method.
The researchers made use of a pair of sterile rubber gloves and dipped one into a bacterial-broth which completely coated the outside with E.coli. Thereafter they performed differed hand movements including handshakes of different intensities, high-fives and fist bumps.
Their findings, which have been published in the American Journal of Infection Control, indicated that a handshake transferred 10 times as much bacterium as a fist bump, with a palm-to-palm high-five falling between the two.
It is suggested that the smaller time of contact and smaller contact area is responsible for the reduction of the transfer of bacteria in a fist bump.
Dr Dave Whitworth said that although this story may appear to be amusing, there is a serious underlying message. He said that if there was a flu pandemic, handshaking and being in hospital has to be given due consideration regarding the spread of superbugs.
This is not the first time this problem has been raised. Calls in the Journal of the American Medical Association have previously called for a ban on handshakes in hospitals.
Dr Whitworth said that medics are trained to put patients at ease with a firm handshake, but should this be done?
However, Dr Whitworth has admitted that his fist bumping is not very good and he cannot master the angle, hence his hand greeting of choice remains the handshake, which he tries to do as little as possible.
An expert in infection control at Public Health England, Peter Hoffman, said fist bumping may be a small method to avoid getting nasty germs on your hands, but there are several others that make up for this. He said that E.coli bacteria is found in the gut, which implies that if someone has these bugs on their hands, their skin is basically covered in faeces. He added that if we were to wash our hands more often and thoroughly after using the toilet, the spread of harmful bugs could be reduced substantially.
He added that the best approach to avoiding the transferral of germs would be if we returned to the Victorian age where a curtsy or bow from a distance was the norm. This would definitely avoid germs!
Image Credit: aamylindholm