Anticipating a shortage of N95 respirator masks, a team of experts from WUSM, BJH and BJC HealthCare developed a process to disinfect large numbers of N95 respirators using vaporized hydrogen peroxide. The novel method and its effectiveness are reported April 27 in the Journal of the American College of Surgeons. Shaina Eckhouse, MD, an assistant professor of surgery, is the study’s senior author.
The group adapted an existing process allowing single-use N95 respirators to be safely reused by the same health-care worker up to 20 cycles. Returning the N95 to the same person also helps ensure the proper fit of the respirator. The group currently is able to disinfect 1,500 N95s per day and is building the capacity to disinfect up to 6,000 N95s per day, according to the researchers, including first author and surgery resident Julie Grossman, MD, and co-author Andrew Pierce, director of supply and perioperative business at Barnes-Jewish Hospital. Each health-care worker places his or her own N95 into a gas-permeable bag and writes his or her department and name on the bag so the respirators can be disinfected and returned.