Microbial load and proliferation associated with various face mask types and sources during the COVID-19 pandemic

Srinivasan Narasimhan, Meenashree Balakrishnan, Olukayode James Ayodeji, Seshadri S. Ramkumar

Research output: Contribution to specialist publicationArticle


Due to the shortage of personal protective equipment during the COVID-19 pandemic, homemade face coverings were recommended as alternatives. However, the capability of alternative face coverings to proliferate microbes have not been fully documented. The current study evaluated bacterial load and proliferation associated with the use of common face masks during the COVID-19 pandemic. Mask type-specific and surface-related bacterial load and pattern were noticeable in the study. Results indicated that roadside masks are among samples that contained relatively higher initial bacterial load. The highest number of bacterial forming colonies were observed in the inner surface of mask samples. Proliferation of microbes over time was also noticeable among the non-certified face coverings included in the study. Sterilization or washing of non-certified fabric face masks before use is recommended. Application: Apart from protecting the wearer from getting exposed to the infection, face coverings also stop the spread from infected individuals. The present study examined the population of microbes distributed over the mask surface during use. The microbial load on each type of mask, the health, and potential safety risks were high-lighted. This information could guide policy and mitigating measures against severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) related infections.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages9
Specialist publicationTappi Journal
StatePublished - Jan 2022


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