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Dr. Anand Kumar

N95 decontamination research attracting worldwide interest

April 7, 2020 — 

The news that UM medical researchers have been testing the possibility that N95 Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) masks can be reused has attracted attention from far and wide.

As noted in UM Today last week, research conducted at both Health Sciences Centre Winnipeg (HSC) and the National Microbiology Laboratory (NML) in Winnipeg, was performed by a team led by Dr. Anand Kumar, a UM researcher and critical-care physician at HSC, in response to worldwide concerns about the supply of N95 masks. They tested four different types of N95 masks using four different sterilization methods: repeated cycles of standard autoclaving; ethylene oxide gassing; ionized hydrogen peroxide (iHP) fogging; and vaporized hydrogen peroxide (VHP) treatment. They found that some N95 masks might retain integrity through as many as ten sterilizations and reuses.

The study has yet to be published in a peer-reviewed journal, but Kumar’s team released their preliminary results in the hope that they may offer hope to health professionals during a time when PPEs are in short supply. The study has been published on UM Today.

Several media have picked up the story of the team’s work, from Yahoo News:

Kumar said the pleated fabric masks can be cycled through an autoclaving machine 10 times and come out as good as before.

“The reason this is really important is that autoclaves are available at literally every established hospital in the world. There is probably no hospital in the world that doesn’t have an autoclave machine,” Kumar said.

to Radio Canada International:

“There is a sliver of light–maybe more than a sliver, maybe–emerging from the Canadian Prairies to fight the darkness that is the COVID-19 pandemic.”

to a small-town newspaper in California:

“When it comes to the sterilization of fabric masks, there’s really no research on the subject, so in a public setting, they obviously need to be kept as clean as possible and will provide protection. But for health workers, they should only be used as a last resort and just once if possible.

“As far as N95 masks, the University of Manitoba has done encouraging research. The university tested four types of N95 masks and four methods of sterilization. They identified techniques that may allow N95 masks to be sterilized up to 10 times.”

In addition, UM Today has received requests for the research paper directly from some health professionals throughout North America.

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