Ultraviolet-C Irradiation, Heat, and Storage as Potential Methods of Inactivating SARS-CoV-2 and Bacterial Pathogens on Filtering Facepiece Respirators
Harfoot R., Yung DBY., Anderson WA., Wild CEK., Coetzee N., Hernández LC., Lawley B., Pletzer D., Derraik JGB., Anderson YC., Quiñones-Mateu ME.
The arrival of SARS-CoV-2 to Aotearoa/New Zealand in February 2020 triggered a massive response at multiple levels. Procurement and sustainability of medical supplies to hospitals and clinics during the then upcoming COVID-19 pandemic was one of the top priorities. Continuing access to new personal protective equipment (PPE) was not guaranteed; thus, disinfecting and reusing PPE was considered as a potential alternative. Here, we describe part of a local program intended to test and implement a system to disinfect PPE for potential reuse in New Zealand. We used filtering facepiece respirator (FFR) coupons inoculated with SARS-CoV-2 or clinically relevant multidrug-resistant pathogens (Acinetobacter baumannii Ab5075, methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus USA300 LAC and cystic-fibrosis isolate Pseudomonas aeruginosa LESB58), to evaluate the potential use of ultraviolet-C germicidal irradiation (UV-C) or dry heat treatment to disinfect PPE. An applied UV-C dose of 1000 mJ/cm2 was sufficient to completely inactivate high doses of SARS-CoV-2; however, irregularities in the FFR coupons hindered the efficacy of UV-C to fully inactivate the virus, even at higher UV-C doses (2000 mJ/cm2). Conversely, incubating contaminated FFR coupons at 65 °C for 30 min or 70 °C for 15 min, was sufficient to block SARS-CoV-2 replication, even in the presence of mucin or a soil load (mimicking salivary or respiratory secretions, respectively). Dry heat (90 min at 75 °C to 80 °C) effectively killed 106 planktonic bacteria; however, even extending the incubation time up to two hours at 80 °C did not completely kill bacteria when grown in colony biofilms. Importantly, we also showed that FFR material can harbor replication-competent SARS-CoV-2 for up to 35 days at room temperature in the presence of a soil load. We are currently using these findings to optimize and establish a robust process for decontaminating, reusing, and reducing wastage of PPE in New Zealand.