Researchers Help Stretch Mask Supplies

It started with a text. Infectious Disease Specialist Renuga Vivekanandan, MD, asked colleagues: Can a surgical mask be sterilized for reuse?

Supplies were tight in some areas. That query unleashed a flurry of activity. A diverse group of researchers, clinicians and businesspeople – most who’d never met – spent the next few weeks connecting virtually to work on the problem.

“Everyone wanted to help out and do what they could,” said Laura Hansen, PhD, Associate Dean for Research at Creighton University.

“We wanted to come up with an approach that was practical, that could scale up easily,” said Jason Bartz, PhD, Vice Chair of medical microbiology and immunology at Creighton University.

Aspects included determining what bacteria to test, what sterilization techniques worked best and how sterilization affected the mask. Evidence showed the autoclave, a medical sterilizer, was effective without compromising mask integrity. The carefully researched conclusion allows Dr. Vivekanandan to make a precise recommendation.

“We are fortunate to have these experts in our system at Creighton University to be able to collaborate,” she said. Dr. Hansen expects the research efforts to continue, including a meta-analysis by Creighton University students and grad students.