Relative survival of Bacillus subtilis spores loaded on filtering facepiece respirators after five decontamination methods

Indoor Air. 2018 May 31;28(5):754-762. doi: 10.1111/ina.12475. Online ahead of print.


This study determines the relative survival (RS) of Bacillus subtilis spores loaded on an N95 filtering facepiece respirator (FFR) after decontamination by five methods under worst-case conditions. Relative survival was obtained by testing after decontamination and after storing the FFRs at 37°C and 95% relative humidity for 24 hours. The decontamination methods involved ethanol, bleach, ultraviolet irradiation (UVA 365 nm, UVC 254 nm), an autoclave, and a traditional electric rice cooker (TERC) that was made in Taiwan. Without decontamination, 59 ± 8% of the loaded spores survived for 24 hours. When 70% ethanol was added to the N95 FFR at a packing density of 0.23, the RS was 73 ± 5% initially and decayed to 22 ± 8% in 24 hours. Relative survival remained above 20% after 20 minutes of UVA irradiation. The other four decontamination measures achieved 99%-100% biocidal efficacy, as measured immediately after the methods were applied to the test FFRs. Relative survival is a useful parameter for measuring sterilization or degree of disinfection. Bleach, UVC, an autoclave, and a TERC provide better biocidal efficacy than ethanol and UVA. Not only a higher filter quality but also a lower value of RS produced the most decontaminated FFR.

Keywords: N95; bioefficacy; decontamination; respirator; spore; survive.