Sealing a business deal with a handshake could be a thing of the past after a leading scientist claims we should keep our hands to ourselves to prevent the the spread of infectious diseases like flu.
Nathan Wolfe, a virus expert at Stanford University in California, suggests we should use a "safe shake" like touching elbows or follow the example of the Japanese and take a bow to avoid the spread of infections.
According to the Sunday Times Dr Wolfe says diseases such as stomach bugs, flu and colds spread readily via skin contact.
In his new book The Viral Storm, Dr Wolfe says: 'We should advocate a safe shake by touching elbows rather than hands.
"Certainly this would help to decrease the spread of some infectious agents in the same way that sneezing into an elbow, rather than in a hand, does."
Dr Wolfe, the director of California-based firm Global Viral Forecasting, has recently acted as a consultant for the new movie Contagion, starring Kate Winslet and Gwyneth Paltrow.
In the opening scene of the film Ms Paltrow is seen contracting a deadly virus after shaking someone by the hand and Dr Wolfe argues that such a pandemic is entirely possible. In 2003 the outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome came from wild bats in China, where it was caught by a human and spread all the way to Canada.
New research into the flu virus has found that it could be caught from contaminated kettles, door handles, work surfaces and remote controls, where it can survive for up to 24 hours.
Ben Killingley, an infectious disease specialist at Nottingham University, has carried out research into influenza, funded by the Medical Research Council. He said: "If people pick up the virus on their nose, tongue or eye they can become infected." Although he also said that if people washed their hands regularly then it would not be necessary to stop shaking hands.
Viruses can be spread via airborne water droplets sprayed by an infected person coughing or sneezing, especially in crowded spaces like buses, tubes and trains. But it is now thought that there may be a much greater risk of the spread of infection in the office, where people may be expected to shake the hands of many colleagues or strangers during a single day - allowing the disease to be spread at a much faster rate.