In a first-of-its-kind study, researchers found high counts of both fungi and bacteria on face masks worn by the study subjects. On the face side, bacterial colonies were found in 99% of the samples. On the outer side, bacterial colonies were found in 94% of samples.
Researchers found fungal colonies in 79% of the face-side samples and 95% of the outer sides. While the bacteria tended to die off after the masks were removed, the fungi continued to grow and accumulate with usage.
Bacterial counts also were higher in males' masks than females'.
Researchers said, "Since masks can be a direct source of infection to the respiratory tract, digestive tract, and skin, it is crucial to maintain their hygiene to prevent bacterial and fungal infections that can exacerbate COVID-19."
SOURCE: Scientific Reports July 18, 2022