A new study conducted by Japanese scientists found pathogenic bacteria and fungi on the masks of 109 volunteers between the ages of 21 and 22.
According to a Japanese study that was published in Scientific Reports, many pathogenic microbes were found and quantified on masks used during the pandemic.
The study (pdf below) is among the first to discuss potential hygiene problems brought on by bacterial and fungal growth on masks used frequently in the community.
“Since masks can be a direct source of infection to the respiratory tract, digestive tract, and skin, it is crucial to maintain their hygiene to prevent bacterial and fungal infections that can exacerbate COVID-19,” the authors wrote.
109 volunteers between the ages of 21 and 22 participated in the study, and they were all questioned about their lifestyle habits as well as the kind and duration of masks they used. The three different types of masks—gauze, polyurethane, and non-woven—worn between September and October 2020 were tested for bacteria and fungi.
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The researchers discovered that the masks’ face sides carried more bacteria while their outside sides included more fungi.
Fungi and their spores are resistant to drying and may persist in conditions where masks dry out, therefore prolonged usage of the mask led to an increase in fungi but not bacteria.
Comparing non-woven masks to the other two types of masks, it was discovered that non-woven masks had lower fungal colony counts on the outside. Non-woven masks feature three layers: a centre layer of non-woven filter between two layers of fabric.
The lack of a discernible change in the numbers of bacteria or fungi on washable or reusable masks that had been washed shocked the researchers.
“The proper cleaning method for cotton face masks has been recommended to reduce the microbial load on the masks,” the authors wrote. “However, in the current experiments, we did not find significant differences in bacterial or fungal colony numbers on the masks based on washing.”
Additionally, the researchers looked into whether or not particular lifestyle habits, including as gargling, eating natto, and using various forms of transportation, including public transportation, private cars, walking, and bicycling, had any impact on the microbial counts on the masks.
“We found no differences in the bacterial or fungal colony counts on both sides of the masks among the three transportation systems,” the authors wrote.
The microbial counts on the masks of those who gargled once per day showed no differences either. The Japanese practise of gargling is thought to protect against respiratory infections. The Japanese health authorities frequently suggests the practise in addition to hand washing as a flu prevention measure.
Several types of mouthwash and nasal rinses were found to be effective at neutralising human coronaviruses in a study from Penn State College of Medicine published in the Journal of Medical Virology in September 2020, indicating that the products may have the potential to reduce the amount of SARS-CoV-2 load, or the amount of virus inside the mouth. The virus that causes COVID-19 is SARS-CoV-2.
The University of California, San Francisco is now investigating whether patients with COVID-19 can reduce their viral load by gargling with particular mouthwash or gargling solutions. The investigation should be finished in September.
The Front Line COVID-19 Critical Care (FLCCC) Alliance recommends using antiseptic mouthwash after a person has been exposed to the virus in order to “both chronic (ongoing) prevent as well as to avoid getting sick.”
In order to “prevent the transmission of COVID-19 and to improve the outcomes for patients ill with the disease,” the FLCCC Alliance, a nonprofit group made up of critical care specialists, has dedicated its time to creating treatment procedures.
The researchers reported that participants who drank natto, or soybeans that had been fermented with the bacterium bacillus subtillis or B. subtilliss, “had a significantly higher incidence of large white B. subtillis colonies on both sides of the masks than those who did not.”
B. subtillis is a bacterium that can be found in soil, water, air, and decomposing plant matter. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, it is employed in the “industrial production of proteases, amylases, antibiotics, and specialty chemicals” and is “not considered pathogenic or toxigenic to humans, animals, or plants”.
While most of the bacteria and fungi that were cultured from the masks were not dangerous to people, some of them were opportunist pathogens, and others were discovered to cause diseases like food poisoning and staph infections, as well as a fungus that causes jock itch, ringworm, and athlete’s foot.
The study’s authors recommend that, in light of their findings, those with compromised immune systems “avoid repeated use of masks to prevent microbial infection.”
According to the CDC, when there is a high population level of COVID-19, those with impaired immune systems or those who are at a high risk for developing major disease should use a mask or respirator.
Supporters of widespread mask use during the pandemic claim that masks aid in preventing or reducing SARS-CoV-2 infection transmission.
Dr. Paul Alexander, an epidemiologist and researcher, disagrees. According to him, more than 150 research and articles have found that cloth and surgical masks are ineffective at halting the spread of COVID-19 and actually worsen the situation.
“To date, the evidence has been stable and clear that masks do not work to control the virus and they can be harmful and especially to children,” said Alexander.
Evidence does not support community masking with cloth masks to stop the spread of the virus, according to the authors of a critical review of cloth masks used during the pandemic.
“The available clinical evidence of facemask efficacy is of low quality and the best available clinical evidence has mostly failed to show efficacy, with fourteen of sixteen identified randomized controlled trials comparing face masks to no mask controls failing to find statistically significant benefit in the intent-to-treat populations,” the authors wrote.
“Although weak evidence should not preclude precautionary actions in the face of unprecedented events such as the COVID-19 pandemic, ethical principles require that the strength of the evidence and best estimates of amount of benefit be truthfully communicated to the public,” they added.
In order to determine if surgical masks reduced the incidence of the common cold before the pandemic, researchers in Japan conducted a small randomised controlled study among healthcare professionals in 2008.
They came to the conclusion that “face mask use in health-care workers has not been demonstrated to provide benefit in terms of cold symptoms or getting colds” and discovered that participants in the mask group “were significantly more likely to experience headache during the study period.”
Read the study given below: