Hamster tests show masks reduce coronavirus spread: Scientists

HONG KONG: Tests on hamsters reveal the widespread use of face masks reduces transmission of the deadly coronavirus, a team of leading experts in Hong Kong said on Sunday (May 17).

The research by the University of Hong Kong is some of the first to specifically investigate whether masks can stop symptomatic and asymptomatic COVID-19 carriers from infecting others.

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Led by Professor Yuen Kwok-yung, one of the world's top coronavirus experts, the team placed hamsters that were artificially infected with the disease next to healthy animals.

Surgical masks were placed between the two cages with air flow travelling from the infected animals to the healthy ones.

The researchers found non-contact transmission of the virus could be reduced by more than 60 per cent when the masks were used.

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Two thirds of the healthy hamsters were infected within a week if no masks were applied.

The infection rate plunged to just above 15 per cent when surgical masks were put on the cage of the infected animals and by about 35 per cent when placed on the cage with the healthy hamsters.

Those that did become infected were also found to have less of the virus within their bodies than those infected without a mask.

"It's very clear that the effect of masking the infected, especially when they are asymptomatic – or symptomatic – it's much more important than anything else," Yuen told reporters Sunday.

"It also explained why universal masking is important because we now have known that a large number of those infected have no symptom."

READ: COVID-19 can spread 1 to 3 days before symptoms appear, CDC report on Singapore cases shows

Yuen was one of the microbiologists who discovered the SARS virus – a predecessor of the current coronavirus – when it emerged in 2003, killing some 300 people in Hong Kong.

Armed with knowledge from that fight, he advised Hong Kongers early in the current pandemic to adopt universal masking, something embraced by the city's residents.

At the time the World Health Organization and many other foreign health authorities dismissRead More – Source