No, the dry swabs in this video of a Covid-19 test are not 'alive'

Screengrabs from a Facebook video posted on January 6, 2021 falsely claim that dry swab fibres used in Covid-19 tests are alive, made of nanoparticles, and are connected to the unproven Morgellons disease.
Screengrabs from a Facebook video posted on January 6, 2021 falsely claim that dry swab fibres used in Covid-19 tests are alive, made of nanoparticles, and are connected to the unproven Morgellons disease. © Facebook/Observers
6 min

A video where a woman unravels the fibre from several Covid-19 dry swabs and claims that the material is “alive” and made of “Morgellons”, a filament associated with an unproven medical condition, has garnered tens of thousands of views on both Facebook and YouTube since early January. These claims are false – the synthetic fibre of the dry swabs is not “alive” and has no connection with Morgellons disease.

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“Nanoparticles”, “morgellons”… what are the claims made in this video?

 

 

A Facebook video posted on January 6 falsely claims that Covid-19 dry swabs are made of alive nanoparticles.

Originally posted on Facebook on January 6 from the account of a user who, according to her profile, lives in the American state of Michigan, the live-streamed video shows the user’s sister with a packet of CLASSIQSwabs dry swabs (a product line developed by the Copan Diagnostics company) that she says are Covid tests received from a friend. “Do you see what the Covid test says? Tips wrapped with traditional fibre. Well, this fibre that’s on here is the same fibre that comes out of my body. These are nanoparticles,” the woman claims.

Zooming in on the dry swabs, she compares the Covid swab, which has a “silver colour”, with a regular cotton swab, which is white. “These are the same particles that come out of my body. These are nanoparticles. These particles are alive and they move.” Later in the video, she uses a pair of tweezers to grab a fibre from the Covid swab, which appears to move and cling to another stray fibre. “Look at them getting mad. […] We’re not even breathing on it and it’s moving.” She grabs the fibres from the cotton swab and says: “regular cotton don’t do a damn thing – it’s not fighting, it’s not moving.”

Screengrab of the fibres from the dry swab with a “silver colour”.
Screengrab of the fibres from the dry swab with a “silver colour”. © Facebook
Screengrab of the fibres from the dry swab that the woman falsely claims are sentient and are “fighting with each other”.
Screengrab of the fibres from the dry swab that the woman falsely claims are sentient and are “fighting with each other”. © Facebook

“They’re putting nanoparticles right into your head,” she claims. “I know this for a fact because this material, these fibres, these silver fibres right here, they come out of my body. They’re called Morgellons.”

Why this claim is false

Firstly, the fibres shown in the video are not nanoparticles, which are defined as microscopic particles measuring between 1 to 100 nanometres that are undetectable by the human eye. The fibre looks silver compared to the cotton swab because the CLASSIQSwabs Traditional Fibre Swab product is made using synthetic fibres (polyester and rayon), both of which have a higher sheen than cotton. As per the recommendation of the “Centers for Disease Control and Prevention”, a US federal health agency, only synthetic fibre swabs should be used in Covid-19 tests in order to prevent the inhibition of molecular tests.

Why do the fibres appear to move in the video? Aside from environmental factors (breath, wind), electrostatic forces could cause the fibres to cling to each other and to other materials, affirms the Institute of Physics. Research also demonstrates that polyester shows higher levels of static charge compared to natural fibres like silk, reported Reuters. Static charge does not mean that a material is “alive”, and there is no other evidence that supports this claim in the video.

What is Morgellons disease, the unproven medical condition referenced in the video?

When the woman says that the “silver fibres come out of [her] body", she references Morgellons, an unproven skin condition. According to Dr. Flora Teoh, a science editor at Health Feedback, a not-for-profit organisation that fact-checks scientific and health-related content, Morgellons disease is “controversial and poorly understood".

People affected by Morgellons describe having filaments or fibres growing from the skin (which they attempt to pick out, causing sores), as well as a biting or crawling sensation under the skin.

However, scientific studies have not been able to pinpoint an exact cause for the condition. A study led by researchers at the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found no evidence of parasites or mycobacteria on the skin of case-patients. The study also found that the filaments or fibres on patients’ skin were mostly composed of cellulose, very likely from cotton. Studies don’t support the patients’ belief that the fibres are coming out of their bodies.

Most dermatologists think that the illness is psychiatric in nature and akin to a mental disorder named delusional parasitosis [Editor’s note: a mental disorder where individuals believe that they are infested with parasites, insects, or other organisms, when no such infection exists].

The term “Morgellons” was first used in 1674 by English physician Sir Thomas Browne to describe a child who had breakouts of hair-like extrusions from their back. After more than three centuries, it was resurrected in 2001 by an American whose son suffered from the sensation of “bugs” and who, upon examination with a toy microscope, she found covered in strange fibres. In a 2011 investigation into the condition, The Guardian described Morgellons as “an unique delusion of parasitosis” whose “imagined symptoms can spread much farther on the web". 

Indeed, there is no evidence to support the claim that synthetic dry swab fibres are “alive nanoparticles” that Covid-19 testers are putting in people’s heads. Claims that swab fibres are made of the same material as the fibres that sufferers of Morgellons disease say grow out of their skin are also unfounded.

Another in a series of Covid-19 conspiracy theories

This dry swab video is just one in a series of Covid-19 conspiracy theories claiming that coronavirus tests and vaccines are ineffective and even dangerous. A video of applesauce that supposedly tested positive for the coronavirus, leading Internet users to conclude that antigen tests were unreliable, was debunked by FRANCE 24 Observers.

Other conspiracies claim falsely that global elites manufactured the Covid-19 pandemic to implement a police state and are planning on inserting microchips into vaccines in order to track and surveil people around the world. These vaccines, according to others, would also connect humans to the Internet or alter their DNA. All of these theories have been thoroughly debunked by reputable fact-checking organisations (click on the links to read more).