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How Some Teens are Faking Positive Covid-19 Tests

fake covid-19 test
Rapid antigen tests can produce fake positive results for covid-19 according to teens and researchers. Credit: dronepicr/Wikimedia Commons/CC BY 2.0

A new study released on Monday suggests that teenagers are using social media to share information on faking covid-19 tests in order to get a positive result.

Since July 1, videos of young people sharing information on how to trick rapid at-home covid tests (lateral flow tests) into producing positive results using soda drinks have gone viral.

This has prompted researchers at the University of Liverpool to look into whether there is any validity to the claim that artificial sweeteners used in sodas can change negative coronavirus results into positive ones. The results of their study, which is still awaiting peer review, were submitted to medRxiv on Monday.

Fake positive covid-19 tests

The videos of children faking positive covid-19 test results have gone particularly viral in the UK, where a single case of coronavirus in a school can often lead to the whole grade of the person diagnosed needing to isolate at home.

In the UK, schools have mandated students test themselves for the coronavirus twice weekly, in a move similar to that enacted by the Greek government.

Some teens have decided that sham positive results are a good thing, as it allows them and their friends to skip school for around ten days and hang out instead. However, this can have a devastating effect on learning, as students miss out on school for days because of false information.

Videos are continually being uploaded to social media sites with the hashtag “#fakecovidtest,” showing children putting different liquids on rapid antigen tests in an attempt to produce a positive result.

University of Liverpool study

The study by University of Liverpool researchers showed that soda drinks could be used to fake rapid covid-19 tests.

The researchers first ruled out the significance of artificial sweetener, as four different kinds of artificial sweetener and spring water produced negative results on the test swabs. However, when the researchers went to test sodas, the results became a bit more concerning.

Ten out of fourteen sodas tested were able to produce positive or weakly positive results. However, the researchers have had a hard time identifying what ingredient produces this reaction, as there seems to be no apparent link between the test results and the soft drinks’ ingredients.

Coronavirus self-testing program used in Greece

Although Greek schools let out for summer a lot earlier than schools in the UK, the protocol for coronavirus testing in both systems is very similar.

This means that when schools start back up again in September in Greece, they may be vulnerable to the same fake positive covid-19 tests which have become popularized through social media in the UK.

Self-testing kits can be obtained by those who are eligible for them at any pharmacy for free. The test is given upon presentation of a valid AMKA social security number of either the child or the parent of the child.

Together with the self test kit, recipients are given written instructions on how to correctly collect their sample. Test results must be declared up to 24 hours before attending classes. To do so, students and teachers need to upload their test results to an online platform.

The registration of self tests per AMKA is done in real time to avoid the phenomenon of multiple tests being handed out by different pharmacies to the same person.

Self tests are rapidly detectable nasal-swab tests (using a nasal instead of nasopharyngeal / oral pharyngeal sample), performed at home; they do not require the supervision of a health professional.

Self-testing is expected to be performed twice weekly by all students and staff in order to keep them safe from the coronavirus.

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