Give Germs the Bump


Published in the March 2015 issue of National Geographic magazine

Greeting a friend doesn’t have to mean meeting all her germs too. David Whitworth and Sara Mela from the U.K.’s Aberystwyth University studied the bacteria transferred in handshakes, high fives, and fist bumps—and found that handshakes transfer 10 to 20 times more bacteria than fist bumps. Although in health terms there’s “a definite benefit to not shaking hands,” Whitworth says, it could be hard to persuade the public to bump instead of clasp. History favors the handshake, a greeting seen in Greek art from the fifth century B.C.

—Lindsay N. Smith

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