One of the doctors identified in the video, Dr Mariano Amici, concludes by claiming that the experiment shows that the Covid tests are “absurdly unreliable”. But this is incorrect, because the experiment did not use the tests properly.
The instructions for the Joysbio test kit say that “This kit has been evaluated for use with human specimen material only… Correct specimen collection and preparation methods must be followed… Failure to follow the test procedure may adversely affect test performance and/or invalidate the test result.”
What is special about Coke and kiwi fruit?
The Coke “test” was conducted by the Austrian politician Michael Schnedlitz, producing a supposedly “positive” result—but again, this is not the correct use of the test.
The manufacturer, Dialab, has also pointed out that Mr Schnedlitz put a sample of the drink directly into the test device instead of mixing it first with the buffer solution, an important part of the test which is designed to stabilise the sample’s acidity. The company said this “destroys the buffer layer and makes the positive marker visible. This result would also be expected if any other manufacturer had such an application.”
However, the fact that these rapid tests can effectively be broken with acidic drinks or fruit does not make them unreliable for use in the general population. “If you completely ignore the manufacturer’s instructions or in fact use the test for something completely different, then you shouldn’t really be surprised if you get a silly result,” says Dr Alexander Edwards, an Associate Professor in Biomedical Technology at the University of Reading, who spoke to us about the fruit and Coke tests.
“It’s a bit like saying your fire alarm is not very accurate because when I hold a lighter under it, it goes off—but there isn’t a fire in the house!”
Are these tests reliable?
Diagnostic tests themselves are generally evaluated in experiments before governments are willing to approve them in their country.
Not all of the regulatory evaluations are complete yet, but in general we can see already that these rapid Covid tests very rarely give false positives in the real world.
For example, the Dialab test correctly identified 130 out of 130 negative samples in one evaluation. The Joysbio test claims that an independent evaluation in Italy found that it correctly identified negative samples in 382 out of 384 (or 385) cases. (It is listed as undergoing evaluation in one country, as of 11 December at the time of writing.)
Not every test from every manufacturer is perfect, of course. The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control conducted a general review of the accuracy of a range of rapid tests up to the end of August. This found studies showing they had a specificity—meaning a success rate in spotting negative samples— of between 80.2% and 100%.
Even so, most governments insist that tests meet minimum standards before approving them. In the UK, the government has begun using a large number of Innova rapid tests. When trialled in labs and in real-world settings such as hospitals, schools and testing centres, they correctly identified negative samples 99.68% of the time. They also proved extremely good at finding negative samples in a pilot in Liverpool.
What about false negatives?
Although rapid tests are generally good at spotting negative samples, they are more likely to miss positive ones. In other words, they are very unlikely to make healthy people think that they have Covid—but they might make a fair number of infected people believe that they aren’t.
When a positive sample is missed, it is called a “false negative”. This makes rapid Covid tests controversial among experts, who disagree about whether the benefits of quickly identifying lots of infected people will outweigh the risk of falsely reassuring others.
However, these rapid tests are unlikely to significantly inflate the number of people infected with Covid.
This article is part of our work fact checking potentially false pictures, videos and stories on Facebook. You can read more about this—and find out how to report Facebook content—here.
For the purposes of that scheme, we’ve rated this claim as false
because this video is not evidence that Covid tests are unreliable.
You’ve probably seen a surge in misleading and unsubstantiated medical advice since the Covid-19 outbreak. If followed, it can put lives at serious risk. We need your help to protect us all from false and harmful information.
We’ve seen people claiming to be health professionals, family members, and even the government – offering dangerous tips like drinking warm water or gargling to prevent infection. Neither of these will work.
The longer claims like these go unchecked, the more they are repeated and believed. It can put people’s health at serious risk, when our services are already under pressure.
Today, you have the opportunity to help save lives. Good information about Covid-19 could be the difference between someone taking the right precautions to protect themselves and their families, or not. Could you help protect us all from false and harmful information today?