Researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore recently conducted a study to determine whether shaking hands could increase the liklihood of contracting MRSA of a staph infection. And as college students around the country get ready to graduate, deans and presidents alike will don their hands with sanitizer to help prevent a potential spread.

Although it is better to be safe than sorry, there is little evidence that harmful bacteria are passed through a casual squeeze of hands during commencement, say reports from The Baltimore Sun. To prove the point, Professor David Bishai, at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, recently headed up research that considered the risks of picking up Staphylococcus aureus or MRSA through shaking hands at graduation ceremonies.

Graduates' hands were swabbed before and immediately after graduation, and the study showed that 93 percent of samples contained non-pathogenic bacteria. However, this did not really present a problem, according to Bishai. The study went on to say that when shaking hands, the rate of hand contamination among graduating students is 100 times lower than the 17 per cent rate observed among health workers caring for patients known to be colonised with MRS.

That said, more general research may make deans, presidents and principals question why they ever bother to wash.

Another Hopkins researcher recently found that the automatic faucets common in public bathrooms are harboring excess bacteria such as Legionella. A study led by an Ohio researcher found refillable soap dispensers so prone to contamination that users' hands may be more bacteria-laden than before they were washed. And a University of Virginia study last year found that alcohol-based sanitizers aren't very effective in preventing colds or flu.

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