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Study shows fist bumps don't spread as many germs as handshakes

For all those wondering, a new study can tell you exactly which hand interaction is the most germy between fist bumps, hand shakes and high-fives. Thank goodness, right? Kind of. If you’re worried about germs in any way this study and what it actually discovered might inform the way you interact with people from now on.

Woodsy Owl (left) and Smokey Bear give each other a fist bump at the International Year of Forests (IYOF) celebration for U.S. Department of Agriculture employees.
Flickr Creative Commons, USDA Photo by Lance Cheung.

In the study published on Monday, researchers from Aberystwyth University in Wales took sterile gloves and then dipped it in something as terrifying as a bacteria broth, so the glove was coated in E. coli.

Once the bacteria coating dried, then one researcher with the E. coli glove would interact with another researcher wearing uninfected gloves to see how much bacteria could be transferred. Performing such scientific acts as hand shakes, fist bumps and high-fives, the scientists determined a clear winner.

Handshakes transferred 10 times as much bacteria as fist bumps, which spread the least amount of bacteria. A firm, palm-to-palm high-five fell in between the other two options in terms of bacteria transferred.

Fist bumping wins, because the duration is short and the surface area is smaller, it’s proved to be the least germy of the interactions.

And while of course this story has a funny side, the scientists are calling for an outright adoption of the fist bump, especially during flu and other seasonal illness seasons. In fact, BBC News reports that the handshake has even been petitioned to be banned from hospitals.

While of course, you couldn’t enter an interview and fist bump your potential employer while introducing yourself, you could just follow researcher Dr. Dave Whitworth’s example, who says a handshake is still his greeting of choice, but he does it as little as possible.

Or you could take this study’s results as a sign to step completely away from hand shakes, fist bumps and high fives, and simply start bowing and curtseying as a form on interaction.