(CNN)Nurses and doctors have gone to creative extremes to reuse the same masks, gloves and scrubs they need to treat contagious coronavirus patients. But if a prototype mask created by researchers proves widely effective, it may be a safer alternative for health care workers.
MIT researchers created a reusable face mask that works like an N95 respirator
Researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston have developed the iMASC, a new silicone mask that can be safely reused without fear of contamination. Researchers still need to analyze how effectively it catches viral particles, but it's a promising step toward addressing the critical health hcare supply shortages.
The iMASC offers a level of protection comparable to N95 respirator masks, its creators say. That's partially because it uses an N95 filter without all the additional material of N95 masks that catches particles.
The masks are based on the shape of a typical N95 mask, too, but they're made with a silicone rubber that can be sterilized after each use. The dual filters that cover the mouth can be replaced after each use, too, the researchers said.
In a study about the iMASC published in the British Medical Journal Open, researchers said shortages of personal protective equipment, or PPE, in hospitals created a "critical need" for reusable safety gear.
So they tried their hand at a N95-style mask. They 3D printed the material and tested its use among nurses and physicians, who scored the mask for breathability, fit and ease of filter replacement.
Researchers asked the health care workers, all from Brigham and Women's Hospital, how the mask stacked up to the tried-and-true N95 mask, and most of them said they either had no preference or preferred the new mask, the researchers said in a release.