May 6, 2021

Hydrogen Peroxide Vapor sterilization of N95 respirators for reuse

Hydrogen Peroxide Vapor sterilization of N95 respirators for reuse

Hydrogen Peroxide Vapor sterilization of N95 respirators for reuse

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Abstract Reprocessing of used N95 respirators may ameliorate supply chain constraints during the COVID-19 pandemic and provide a higher filtration crisis alternative. The FDA Medical Countermeasures Initiative previously funded a study of HP vapor decontamination of respirators using a Clarus C system (Bioquell, Horsham, PA) which normally is used to fumigate hospital rooms. The process preserved respirator function, but it is unknown if HP vapor would be virucidal since respirators have porous fabric that may harbor virus.

We evaluated the virucidal activity of HP vapor using a BQ-50 system (Bioquell, Horsham, PA) after inoculating 3M 1870 N95 respirators (3M, St. Paul, MN) with 3 aerosolized bacteriophage that are a reasonable proxy for SARS-CoV-2. Inoculation resulted in contamination of the respirator with 9.87e4 plaque forming units (PFU) of phage phi-6, 4.17e7 PFU of phage T7 and 1.35e7 PFU of phage T1.

Respirators were reprocessed with BQ-50 with a long aeration phase to reduce HP vapors. Virucidal activity was measured by a standard plaquing assay prior to and after sterilization. A single HP vapor cycle resulted in complete eradication of phage from masks (limit of detection 10 PFU, lower than the infectious dose of the majority of respiratory viral pathogens). After 5 cycles, the respirators appeared similar to new with no deformity.

Use of a Bioquell machine can be scaled to permit simultaneous sterilization of a large number of used but otherwise intact respirators. HP vapor reprocessing may ease shortages and provide a higher filtration crisis alternative to non-NIOSH masks.

Competing Interest Statement

The authors have declared no competing interest.

Funding Statement

No external funding.

Author Declarations

All relevant ethical guidelines have been followed; any necessary IRB and/or ethics committee approvals have been obtained and details of the IRB/oversight body are included in the manuscript.


All necessary patient/participant consent has been obtained and the appropriate institutional forms have been archived.


I understand that all clinical trials and any other prospective interventional studies must be registered with an ICMJE-approved registry, such as I confirm that any such study reported in the manuscript has been registered and the trial registration ID is provided (note: if posting a prospective study registered retrospectively, please provide a statement in the trial ID field explaining why the study was not registered in advance).


I have followed all appropriate research reporting guidelines and uploaded the relevant EQUATOR Network research reporting checklist(s) and other pertinent material as supplementary files, if applicable.


Paper in collection COVID-19 SARS-CoV-2 preprints from medRxiv and bioRxiv

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