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Ditch the handshake—the 'fist bump' is healthier

The "fist bump"—the greeting used by U.S. presidents, sports stars and rappers—has been given a clean bill of health, according to university scientists who released new research Monday showing that it could be more hygienic than the formal and business-like handshake.

The transfer of germs via fist bumping is 90 percent less than a handshake, according to a new report by Aberystwyth University in the U.K. The same research said that a "high-five" could reduce germ transfer by over half.

"People rarely think about the health implications of shaking hands. If the general public could be encouraged to fist bump, there is genuine potential to reduce the spread of infectious diseases," Dave Whitworth, a senior lecturer at Aberystwyth University, said in the report on Monday.

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Whitworth and Ph.D. student Sara Mela carried out the study to promote cleanliness in the workplace and the results have been published in the August edition of the American Journal of Infection Control.

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Using rubber gloves and a layer of E. coli bacteria, the scientists exchanged the different hand gestures and found that habitual handshaking, allows the movement of germs between people and helps the spread contagious illness.

The study also estimated that the hygienic nature of the fist bump may be due to its speed and the small impact area involved. The greeting involves two clenched fists from participants who then lightly tap the front of each fist together. The gesture is often used by President Barack Obama, who notably demonstrated it while on the campaign trail in 2008 with wife Michelle.

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Bows and curtsies?

The Health and Safety Executive, the U.K. watchdog responsible for making sure workplaces and public areas are safe, told CNBC that there were currently no guidelines regarding greetings or hand gestures in the workplace or in business meetings. Meanwhile, Public Health England, a government body set up to protect and improve the nation's health and well-being, said fist bumping may not go far enough and advocated the "thorough and consistent" washing of hands after going to the toilet.

"The ultimate approach to avoiding germs would be if we went back to the Victorian age when on meeting someone you would bow or curtsy from a respectful distance," Peter Hoffman, a consultant clinical scientist at the organization, quipped in a statement.

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Chris Elliott, founder of a London based health and safety consultancy, criticized the study, telling CNBC via email that he didn't have anything even vaguely polite to say on the survey.

"If this is this what universities think research now consists of, the world is screwed. We could all live in plastic bubbles, never meet anyone and then we'd never catch any disease," he said.