There are millions of types of viruses in the world. Viruses that infect human cells cause diseases ranging from the common cold and chicken pox to hepatitis C, SARS, Ebola and Zika. Healthcare workers, emergency responders and researchers are exposed to these sometimes deadly viruses. How can they be sure that their personal protective equipment (PPE,) including their medical gloves, will help keep them safe?
No manufacturer can guarantee that their product will eliminate the risk of virus transmission. There are, however, standard tests that help ensure the wearer a high level of protection from viruses.
One of these standards is ASTM F1671, Standard Test Method for Resistance of Materials Used in Protective Clothing to Penetration by Blood-Borne Pathogens Using Phi-X174 Bacteriophage Penetration as a Test System.
This test, usually referred to as the Viral Penetration Test, is a pass or fail test designed to show whether the material can protect a wearer from viruses that can be transmitted via blood and body fluids.
To conduct the test, swatches of the test material are conditioned for 24 hours at a certain temperature and humidity. The samples are then loaded into penetration test cells. Each test cell reservoir is filled with about 60 ml of Phi-X174 Bacteriophage suspension – a surrogate for viruses like HCV, HBV and HIV.
After allowing the fluid to sit for five minutes, air pressure is applied at 2 pounds per square inch gauge (psig) for one minute. After the minute is up, the pressure is released and the sample is allowed to sit for nearly an hour.
Throughout the test, the samples are monitored for fluid penetration. The specimens are then tested with a biologically based assay. Based on test results, the samples pass or fail ASTM F1671.
Virus Protection and Your Gloves
While the FDA does not require this test for medical gloves, the National Fire Protection Association does. NFPA Standard Number 1999 was developed to ensure that protective garments, gloves and facewear that are worn during a medical emergency operation will give a high level of protection from bloodborne pathogens like viruses.
Medical gloves that pass the Viral Penetration Test are considered to be highly protective against bloodborne virus transmission. Both RoyalTouch300 and FreeStyle1100 Nitrile Exam Gloves pass this test. Double gloving can provide added protection.