Indirect transfer via surfaces such as computer keyboards and door handles is a potential route of transmission for infectious diseases and efforts are made to control such transfer, particularly in hospitals. However, direct contact between individuals has the potential for greater efficiency of pathogen transmission, and handshakes are known to transmit bacteria, including potential pathogens. Nevertheless, some social/professional contexts place great value in the handshake and its quality. Indeed, health professionals have been specifically encouraged to offer handshakes to meet patients’ expectations and to develop a rapport with them.
You won’t believe you do it, but you do. After shaking hands with someone, you’ll lift your hands to your face and take a deep sniff. This newly discovered behaviour – revealed by covert filming – suggests that much like other mammals, humans use bodily smells to convey information.
Thank you, science, for ruining every future handshake I’ll have to make. And a handshake is regarded as a disease vector – there has been suggestion that the “fist bump” is more hygienic because the back of the hand doesn’t come into contact with bacteria as much, and is less likely to support bacteria once transferred between people.