BACKGROUND: Protective respiratory face masks protect the nose and mouth of the wearer from vapor drops carrying viruses or other infectious pathogens. However, incorrect use and disposal may actually increase the risk of pathogen transmission, rather than reduce it, especially when masks are used by non-professionals such as the lay public. Copper oxide displays potent antiviral properties. A platform technology has been developed that permanently introduces copper oxide into polymeric materials, conferring them with potent biocidal properties. METHODOLOGY/PRINCIPAL FINDINGS: We demonstrate that impregnation of copper oxide into respiratory protective face masks endows them with potent biocidal properties in addition to their inherent filtration properties. Both control and copper oxide impregnated masks filtered above 99.85% of aerosolized viruses when challenged with 5.66+/-0.51 and 6.17+/-0.37 log(10)TCID(50) of human influenza A virus (H1N1) and avian influenza virus (H9N2), respectively, under simulated breathing conditions (28.3 L/min). Importantly, no infectious human influenza A viral titers were recovered from the copper oxide containing masks within 30 minutes (< or = 0.88 log(10)TCID(50)), while 4.67+/-1.35 log(10)TCID(50) were recovered from the control masks. Similarly, the infectious avian influenza titers recovered from the copper oxide containing masks were < or = 0.97+/-0.01 log(10)TCID(50) and from the control masks 5.03+/-0.54 log(10)TCID(50). The copper oxide containing masks successfully passed Bacterial Filtration Efficacy, Differential Pressure, Latex Particle Challenge, and Resistance to Penetration by Synthetic Blood tests designed to test the filtration properties of face masks in accordance with the European EN 14683:2005 and NIOSH N95 standards. CONCLUSIONS/SIGNIFICANCE: Impregnation of copper oxide into respiratory protective face masks endows them with potent anti-influenza biocidal properties without altering their physical barrier properties. The use of biocidal masks may significantly reduce the risk of hand or environmental contamination, and thereby subsequent infection, due to improper handling and disposal of the masks
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