Surgical face masks are effective in reducing bacterial contamination caused by dispersal from the upper airway

Br J Anaesth. 1992 Oct;69(4):407-8. doi: 10.1093/bja/69.4.407.


We have studied the effectiveness of surgical face masks in reducing bacterial contamination of a surface, produced by dispersal of organisms from the upper airway. Twenty-five volunteers were asked to speak at blood agar plates positioned in close proximity to the mouth, initially whilst not wearing a face mask and then wearing a surgical face mask over the mouth and nose. A fresh face mask almost completely abolished bacterial contamination of agar plates 30 cm from the mouth. After 15 min there was an increase in the level of contamination which was statistically insignificant.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Anesthesia, Spinal*
  • Bacterial Infections / transmission
  • Humans
  • Masks*
  • Meningitis, Bacterial / prevention & control*
  • Middle Aged
  • Mouth / microbiology*
  • Nose / microbiology*
  • Respiratory System / microbiology