People with masks in Brazil.
Photo: Sebastiao Moreira / EFE
A group of scientists believe that the masks would be fulfilling coronavirus vaccine functions.
The idea, which has not been proven, was published in the New England Journal of Medicine. Scientists suggest that masks, by limiting the number of viruses reaching people, rreduce the risk of falling ill thus some particles get into the body as they invite the body to produce immune cells that can remember the virus and fight against it.
“A person can have this virus but remain asymptomatic,” said the Dr. Monica Gandhi, infectious disease specialist at the University of California, San Francisco, and one of the authors of the scientific text. “So if you can increase asymptomatic infection rates with masks, maybe that will become a way of variolating the population.”
Variolization it is a medical process that was common before the discovery of the smallpox vaccine. The idea is to expose the population to a pathogen to generate immunity. To the people
Gandhi does not recommend that the population let your guard down and deliberately seek to infect. The idea has difficulties to be tested since it is unethical to lock up people without a mask while they are exposed to the coronavirus.
However, experiments with hamsters in China revealed that animals that got sick despite wearing masks showed less gravity than those who were infected without wearing a mask.
Similar effects have been observed in humans based on studies of infections that occurred on cruise ships and meat processing plants with people wearing face masks.
Gandhi and her colleagues acknowledge that a vaccine is the ideal situation to control the pandemic, but their observations recall that the mask is still one of the main tools to avoid coronavirus infections.