What do we know about the face mask that promises to inactivate COVID-19?
Arij Limam

Scientists in Portugal, working alongside manufacturers claim to have created a reusable face mask that has the capacity to inactivate the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, which causes COVID-19.

The MOxAd-Tech face mask, as it's named, was tested by scientists at the Instituto de Medicina Molecular João Lobo Antunes (iMM), in Lisbon, Portugal, to qualify the fabric used as being effective against COVID-19.

What does the mask claim to do?

The creators of the face mask claim that it features an "innovative coating that neutralizes the SARS-CoV-2 virus when it comes in contact with the fabric." And that due to their viral inactivation capacity, these masks offer a high level of additional protection.

Pedro Simas, a virologist at iMM who was responsible for coordinating the tests, said "This unique mask has one property that makes it unique as you said. In addition to the physical barrier, it has a chemical barrier that is able to inactivate SARS-CoV-2, coronavirus and this gives another level of protection. We don't know how this level of protection will translate when blocking viral dissemination but we know its another level, those studies have not yet been done.

Who's behind it?

This mask is the result of the joint development of several entities, among which is the manufacturer Adalberto, the textile company that markets it, MO (Sonae fashion retailer), the CITEVE technology centre, the University of Minho and the João Lobo Antunes Molecular Medicine Institute (iMM). But results of the testing were not peer-reviewed by other scientific institutions. 

Earlier in July, scientists at the University of Toronto in Canada also carried out tests on a similar antimicrobial coating for face masks developed by Quebec company I3 BioMedical Inc., saying that it also can deactivate more than 99 percent of SARS-CoV-2.

But the companies which developed and tested the MOxAd-Tech mask said that what makes their product unique is…" not a magic bullet, but in terms of development, my team at IMM the only thing that we did was to collaborate with industry and a major retailer in terms of testing the ability of this new technology to inhibit, inactivate, the right word is inactivate the SAR-Cov-2 virus. So I am very optimistic and I think this new mask just brings more awareness to society and the world population, that Masks are important." 

'Active ingredient'

The iMM said that the MOxAd-Tech masks feature additional antimicrobial characteristics with proven effectiveness against viruses and bacteria, with accredited technology at international level.

The marketing company, MO, says on its website that "specific technology [was] used to introduce the active ingredient into the item ensuring that no particles are released onto the skin or into the environment." And it promises the mask "prevents unpleasant odours" and is "highly efficient in preventing cross contamination."

The iMM also added that "the active ingredient had already been successfully tested by the Institut Pasteur de Lille, in France, namely against the H1N1 virus and the Corona-type virus, and against the rotavirus."

It added that the product complies with all the requirements laid down in the new standardized European regulations on community face coverings for consumer use. However, the mask does not comply with EU regulations for surgical masks.

The mask's marketing company said: "It can be used in hospital settings, but it is not a medical device and it has not been developed to comply with hospital standards and should not therefore be used for this purpose."

How popular is it?

Although the mask was developed a few months ago and began marketing in April, it was not until now that the iMM finished conducting the relevant tests on its antiviral capacity. The mask can currently be purchased in some Portuguese stores and through the Adalberto website for a price of €10 ($11.78) plus shipping, and is said to be available in other countries across Europe.

"It is very gratifying for a scientist like me and my team, I should say they worked 24/7 to get tests done and very gratifying for IMM and for our country, we actually doing something very simple but is effective and can bring hope to people and especially increase awareness that wearing of a mask is very important as a tool and its a small sacrifice for the common good in order to save lives in this pandemic." Said Simas.


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