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'Fist Bump': The New Health Care Handshake?

U.K. researchers found it transferred about a 10th of the bacteria that gripping hands did

MONDAY, July 28, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- Researchers say that clasping hands transfers about 10 times more germs from one person to the other than what is known as a "fist bump." They suggest the more casual exchange might suffice as a cultural substitute for the firm gripping of hands. The findings are published in the August issue of the American Journal of Infection Control.

To test what type of greeting might spread the most germs from one hand to another, one researcher would dip a gloved hand into a container brimming with a fairly harmless strain of E. coli bacteria. That researcher would then shake, fist bump, or high-five the gloved, but clean, hand of another researcher. The glove that had been germ-free to start with was then tested for levels of E. coli bacteria.

The handshake turned out to be the dirtiest exchange of all, spreading twice as much bacteria as a high-five and about 10 times more than a fist bump, the investigators found. Using paint in a second round of tests, the researchers found that more of each person's hand touched the other person's hand in a handshake, and that contact tended to last longer. They theorized that those two facts might explain why handshakes are the least sanitary exchange.

"Adoption of the fist bump as a greeting could substantially reduce the transmission of infectious diseases between individuals," corresponding author David Whitworth, Ph.D., a researcher with the Institute of Biological, Environmental, and Rural Sciences at Aberystwyth University in the United Kingdom, said in a journal news release. "It is unlikely that a no-contact greeting could supplant the handshake," Whitworth acknowledged. "However, for the sake of improving public health we encourage further adoption of the fist bump as a simple, free, and more hygienic alternative to the handshake."

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