Can You Fake a COVID test with Juice?

Source: Unsplash

The world is now returning to some semblance of normalcy after a fairly harrowing year, courtesy of COVID. Governments are creating guidelines to safely reopen schools and offices. These include proof of vaccination and regular testing for the virus.
However, going back to a busy lifestyle after such a long break is pretty difficult. And in some parts of the world, kids are not having it.

A sneaky way to skip school

According to a news report, Gateacre School in Belle Vale, Liverpool warned parents in an email to be “vigilant” when their kids were taking the lateral flow device (LFD) test, an in-home diagnostic test for COVID.

The warning email said:

“Nationally, some school students have discovered that placing droplets of orange juice or other fruit juice on an LFD test gets a false ‘positive’ result. In light of this, can you be extra vigilant when your child is doing their LFD tests. Also, remind them that a positive LFD test must be followed by a confirmatory PCR test.”

This trend comes from a new “hack” seen on the social media app TikTok that shows kids how to fake a positive COVID-19 test.
As absurd as it sounds that the LFD can be manipulated with some juice, Mark Lorch, Professor of Science Communication and Chemistry at the University of Hull says its possible. And he has the answers.

The device consists of two sets of COVID antibodies. The first set, at one end of the strip, is attached to gold nanoparticles. When a sample containing the virus is added to the strip, these antibodies bind to the virus and carry it up to the T line where another set of antibodies await. This second set also binds to the virus, leaving the gold nanoparticles immobilized. These appear on the test as a positive indicator of the virus.

So why Juice?

Once acid is introduced in the form of juice or cola, it denatures the antibodies, “affecting their function”, Lorch explains. This causes the antibodies at the T line to catch the gold nanoparticles without the presence of the virus, creating a fake positive line.

So how can we differentiate the juice test from a real COVID test? Lorch says it all depends on the liquid buffer solution provided to carry the virus sample. The buffer helps neutralize the sample to an antibody-friendly PH of around 7.4. It can also help reverse the denaturation process once acid has been introduced.

Having cracked the science, Lorch appreciates the creativity:

“Children, I applaud your ingenuity, but now that I’ve found a way to uncover your trickery I suggest you use your cunning to devise a set of experiments and test my hypothesis. Then we can publish your results in a peer-reviewed journal,” he says.

Source: The Conversation


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here