Study investigates the effectiveness of air filtration systems in preventing respiratory infections

Can portable air filters prevent respiratory infections and COVID-19 in care homes?

The vehicle for airborne respiratory disease transmission is the droplets air. These droplets can be inhaled or picked up from the surfaces on which they land.

Portable air filters that purify the air can reduce infections by trapping and even killing viruses and bacteria in the air. High-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters are being used in hospital operating theatres and transplant wards to prevent infections. They are also available for domestic use.

A major new randomized controlled trial led by the University of Bristol will investigate the effectiveness of air filtration systems in preventing respiratory infections (such as coughs, colds, and flu) and COVID-19 among care home residents in England.

Seventy-four care homes have been selected and divided into two groups for the trial. The 37 care homes in the control group will continue with usual care following their local infection prevention strategies, such as hand-washing. The 37 intervention care homes will continue with usual care and place air filters in communal areas and up to ten residents’ private bedrooms for one winter.

Care home staff will record the number of infections their residents experience during the winter, and the results from the two groups will be compared.

Professor Alastair Hay, Chief Investigator from the University of Bristol’s Centre for Academic Primary Care, said: “Our research has shown portable air filters are capable of removing viruses and other germs from the air, but there have been no studies to investigate the benefits on human health, so AFRI-c is the first of its kind. The study also aims to understand if the purchase and use of air filters represent good value for money.”

“We are particularly interested to hear from care homes and care home chains in England who might be interested in helping us. Please visit the AFRI-c study website to find out more about taking part.”

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