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Photo of the TrioMed Active Mask. // Photo courtesy of I3 BioMedical Inc.

U of T develops masks to help combat COVID-19

By Krishna Shetye, August 19 2020 —

Calgary’s recent mandatory mask bylaw for indoor public areas has sparked a citywide rush for masks. The City of Calgary is offering free masks near public areas, such as train stations, to prevent further spread of the COVID-19 virus. But how effective are the masks we wear in preventing our germs from spreading to others or vice-versa? 

The three more well-known masks circulating at the moment are the N95 respirators, surgical masks (which are being distributed by the city), and cloth masks or face coverings. In this particular order, the masks decline in effectiveness in terms of preventing virus transmission, with N-95 being the most and cloth masks being the least. 

N-95 masks, although the most effective, are also the least accessible, and mainly reserved for front line health care workers. Disposable surgical masks seem to be the safest way to transmit COVID-19  based on an April article from The Lancet Microbe, which demonstrated that COVID-19 can actually survive on masks’ surfaces for up to 7 days. 

However, a new innovative surgical mask with an external antimicrobial coating may be just as, if not more, effective in preventing coronavirus transmission. A recent series of tests at the University of Toronto discovered that the TrioMed Active Mask type IIR surgical mask, created by Quebec company i3 Biomedical Inc., deactivated over 99 per cent of the SARS-CoV-2 applied to the surface of the mask in a matter of a few minutes. This is due to the antimicrobial coat applied on the surface of the surgical mask. 

Tests with this particular coating had been conducted in the past to demonstrate the masks’ ability to kill most viral and bacterial pathogens such as influenza. After the pathogens were applied to the external coating of the masks, no infectious elements were recovered from the coating, indicating the masks’ success in eradicating pathogens on their external surface.

This innovative mask prevents the unsanitary yet incredibly hard-to-shake habit of touching the face from resulting in the transmission of the virus through contamination from the hands. The single-use TrioMed Masks are available for purchase online on various websites, with a 3-pack coming under 10 dollars. In comparison, a box of 50 3-ply surgical masks can cost from 5 dollars to 40 dollars, depending on where they are purchased from.

More information on the TrioMed Masks can be found here.

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