Establishing A Research Platform for Investigating and Optimizing PPE Filtration/Barrier Efficiencies Against Aerosolized Bacteria and Viruses in Clinical Healthcare Settings
The state of emergency brought about by the pandemic has mercilessly exposed the shortfalls of our healthcare system, one of the most pressing being the severe shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE). To meet an urgent need for PPE, the government has taken several measures, such as increased import, repurposing of existing manufacturing lines, and approving methods of decontamination and re-use. Whether imported, locally manufactured, or decontaminated and reused, protective gear must provide an effective barrier against infectious aerosols. However, currently no Canadian lab has the capability to quantify the effectiveness of PPE against biological aerosols in accordance with regulatory standards, which means PPE samples must be sent to labs in the US, with lead times of weeks to month. We have addressed this issue by developing a standardized test setup for determining the barrier efficiency of PPE material against biological aerosols. We propose to expand and extend our Nationally unique workflow to address 3 critical gaps in knowledge and, as a result, create knowledge and capacity for developing a National standard for protective gear: (1) Quantification of filtration efficiency of locally manufactured and imported PPE against aerosolized viruses and correlating the data to standardized bacteria filtration efficiency tests, with focus on suppliers to the 5 major hospitals in Hamilton and local industrial partners, as a representative of the PPE market in Ontario; (2) Investigating the effect of Health Canada-approved sterilization/reuse protocols on barrier of PPE material against airborne viruses, both for single use PPE and PPE designed to be reusable (e.g., cloth masks); (3) A clinical study focused PPE fit, specifically focused on fit based on sex and ethnical background, that will inform general public and policy makers of whether the current design of PPE meets the needs of the entire Canadian population and match our rich cultural landscape.