Thursday 23 September 2021

Costa Rica made N-95 mask disinfector passed national tests

The device designed by Costa Rican scientists now awaits the approval of the World Health Organization (WHO).

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(QCOSTARICA) The prototype to disinfect and reuse the N-95 masks used to prevent Covid-19 infections passed national tests and is ready for its second phase testing in an international laboratory certified by the World Health Organization (WHO).

The device designed by Costa Rican scientists now awaits the approval of the World Health Organization (WHO). Photo Plasma Innova, Costa Rica

The coordinator of the project of Costa Rica’s tech school, the Instituto Tecnológico de Costa Rica (TEC), Marta Vílchez, emphasized that “being a small country and the mask purchases we make are insignificant compared to the rest of the world, it is best to disinfect those that already exist and reuse them.”

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The initiative arose as a result of a request from the Caja Costarricense de Seguro Soical (CCSS), to the education center, to help with the creation of specialized equipment in the event of a supply shortage, given that Costa Rica’s purchases of masks is not a priority for world suppliers.

José Asenjo, scientist at  Plasma Innova, said that only Costa Rica in the world would use this technology.

The scientist stated that “the novelty is that two types of combined disinfection were implemented, irradiation with ultraviolet light, used internationally for disinfection, and the other is plasma-activated air, which is a national technology to carry out these treatments.”

For her part, María Laura Arias, a microbiologist at the Microbiology laboratories of the University of Costa Rica, explained that in the tests the chamber destroyed environmental and pathogenic bacteria such as salmonella.

The expert was positive, stating that “if the chamber achieved these ranges, it could do so with the virus generated by Covid-19”.

The microbiologist emphasized that the studies are very promising with highly resistant microorganisms, such as E. coli, Staphylococcus aureus, Salmonella, Listeria, Candida, Aspergillus and Bacillus.

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According to Arias, the microorganisms were placed in the N95 masks and tested with different exposure times, one, five, and 20 minutes, the latter working the most within the TEC designed chamber.

“In all cases, except for Bacillus, the number of microorganisms dropped to 100 or less; that is, they fell from a billion to 100 million and the most important thing is that in no case did the mask deform, the microbiologist assured.

The experts commented that inside the chamber, the air is converted to plasma, and molecules are generated that purify any object, for example, lenses, pens, and N95 masks.

One of these molecules is ozone because it is unstable and reacts very well with fats, that is, the tendency of ozone to be in contact with Covid-19 would be to break its shell and kill it.

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For the device to reach the health centers of Costa Rica (and possibly around the world), the validation of three tests is necessary. Two of these are national (Physical integrity and Proof that it really disinfects), which have already been overcome.

The third and last one is international and is based on proving that the camera annihilates the COVID-19 virus. Because there are no cultivated strains of the virus in the country, the TEC is in negotiations to obtain them through international laboratories certified by the WHO.

Coronavirus face mask cleaning and reuse

There is intense interest around ways to disinfect and reuse an N95 mask. N95 facepiece respirators are “not approved for routine decontamination and reuse,” according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

While many efforts to do so are making headlines and may read like household advice, those innovations are intended for professional settings and equipment.

We can’t blame people for wanting to reuse N95 masks due to their price. There is no way to reuse an N95 mask, outside of some prospective methods being developed for institutional settings, as being developed by the TEC in Costa Rica. Don’t try to clean and reuse an N95 mask yourself.

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"Rico" is the crazy mind behind the Q media websites, a series of online magazines where everything is Q! In these times of new normal, stay at home. Stay safe. Stay healthy.

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