Hamster experiments show how effective masks prevent the spread of coronavirus

(ORDO NEWS) — Hong Kong scientists report that they have been able to obtain strong evidence that wearing masks significantly reduces the rate of spread of Covid-19. The work, which researchers call “the first of its kind,” showed that the rate of spread of infection by airborne droplets due to masks is reduced by 75%.

According to the authors of the study, they wanted to put an end to the debate about the effectiveness of personal protective equipment. The need to cover the face during a pandemic has been disputed and contested by many specialists, including WHO staff. “The conclusions of [our work] are that the effectiveness of wearing masks against a coronavirus pandemic is enormous,” summarizes an employee of Hong Kong University Ewen Kwok Yoon, one of the authors of the work.

The most unusual thing in this study is the choice of participants in the experiment: they were hamsters. Three cells with healthy hamsters were placed next to each cell in which the rodent infected with the coronavirus was located. A fan installed in the room created additional air flows that increased the likelihood of viral particles spreading. Between the cells in which the animals were located, additional partitions were made from surgical masks.

In total, 52 rodents participated in the experiments. Three series of experiments were conducted. In the first of them, the protective septum was placed on the inside of the cells with sick hamsters, and in the second, on the inside of the cells of healthy animals. The third series of experiments was carried out without additional protective barriers between infected and healthy hamsters.

In experiments without additional protection, two-thirds of healthy hamsters were infected within seven days (10 out of 15 individuals). In the presence of a tissue barrier in a cell with healthy hamsters, only one third of the animals were infected per week (4 out of 12). And when an additional septum was placed in the cells of sick rodents, only one sixth of healthy hamsters were infected (2 of 12 healthy at the time the experiments began).

The study also showed that hamsters infected with Covid-19 by direct injection had more severe symptoms than those that got infected through the septum. The latter showed less severe symptoms, histopathological changes in the lungs were less pronounced, and the viral load in the tissues of the respiratory tract was also noticeably lower.

The authors of the study believe that they were able to experimentally confirm the long-standing assumption that a visibly or potentially infected person, putting on a mask, actually protects other people from infection. Scientists also recommend that people who are tired of quarantine measures have a little more patience and use masks in public places, regardless of weather conditions and psychological discomfort.

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