Fact check: COVID-19 tests are not compiling people’s DNA
A woman in a video that has been shared on Instagram and Twitter says she took a coronavirus test because her children’s school required it, and she says the testing is collecting people’s DNA for a nefarious purpose.
The health care company that conducted the testing, Vault Health, told the USA TODAY Network that the woman is wrong – that its testing looks only for the coronavirus, and it destroys the test samples within four weeks.
The woman assumed her DNA was being collected because “SpectrumDNA” is printed on the packaging and paperwork of the testing kit she was given. The test she used is sometimes called a “spit test” because it collected saliva to be examined for the coronavirus.
“They're collecting our DNA. This is some kind of Nazi experiment,” the woman said in the video. “They're literally collecting everyone’s DNA – for what? Why do they need my DNA to find out if I have a virus?”
The woman said she “did the wrong thing” in taking the test. “Don’t get a test unless you’re forced to do it,” she said.
The origin of the video could not be determined.
Fact check::US COVID-19 deaths from Dec. 1-5 rival the toll from the Pearl Harbor attack
What is SpectrumDNA?
SpectrumDNA is a division of Utah-based Spectrum Solutions, a medical device manufacturer. It makes kits to collect saliva for DNA and RNA testing for a variety of purposes, from “heritage tracing to a cancer diagnosis,” it says on its website.
Spectrum doesn’t do coronavirus testing, the company says, and its coronavirus kits are not collecting people’s DNA. Instead, it makes the saliva collection kits that medical labs and others use to do COVID-19 testing.
The woman in the video had a SpectrumDNA kit. She said the test was being done by another company, Vault. Vault is short for Vault Health.
RNA is ribonucleic acid. It is in your body’s cells, which use it to make proteins.
The coronavirus also has RNA. If you get infected with the coronavirus, it injects its RNA into your cells and forces them to make copies of the virus. The new copies burst out of the cell spread the virus to other cells in your body to make more copies.
Since the pandemic began, scientists developed tests that look for coronavirus RNA in people’s saliva. This is an alternative to the swab tests that involve sticking cotton swabs deep into people’s noses.
SpectrumDNA’s saliva collecting tubes and preservation materials are the only ones that the federal Food and Drug Administration has approved to collect saliva for the spit test that Vault Health uses, said Alex Pastuszak, Vault’s chief clinical officer, in an email to the USA TODAY Network.
“The Spectrum tube and preservative are designed to be able to collect and protect both DNA and RNA, which are the fundamental genetic components of all living creatures, whether human or virus,” Pastuszak said. “The same tube can be used to collect and preserve human DNA, but in this case it is being used only for preservation of virus, and the label should not be interpreted as indicating that Vault is collecting/storing/analyzing human DNA.”
Fact check:Viral posts use altered image to make false claim that Biden is faking injury
But saliva has the person’s DNA — what happens to that?
In Vault’s coronavirus testing process, the human DNA in the saliva is not analyzed and the sample is not kept longer than necessary for testing for the coronavirus, Pastuszak said.
“While there is DNA in the sample, this is not the purpose of the collection," he said. "The sample is ONLY used for testing for the presence of viral RNA."
The saliva samples are destroyed within one to four weeks of arriving at the laboratory, Pastuszak added.
Our rating: False
We rate the claim in the video that coronavirus tests are being used to collect DNA from the public FALSE, based on our research. The saliva samples collected for testing company Vault Health are examined only for coronavirus RNA and are destroyed within four weeks, Vault’s chief clinical officer said.
Our fact-check sources:
- Dec. 4 email to the USA Today Network from Vault Health (via public relations firm Factory PR).
- Vault Health’s announcement about its COVID-19 testing.
- Spectrum Solutions and its SpectrumDNA webpage where it discusses DNA and its coronavirus testing kits and in general its role in collecting saliva for lab analysis.
- FDA document approving SpectrumDNA’s collection tube for use in COVID-19 testing.
- News release about FDA approval of SpectrumDNA’s saliva collection tube for COVID-19 testing.
- Live Science article: “What is RNA?”
- Nature Reviews Microbiology article: “Coronavirus biology and replication: implications for SARS-CoV-2.”
- Los Angeles Times article: “How coronaviruses replicate inside you.”
- Kaiser Health News article: “Easier-to-use coronavirus saliva tests start to catch on."
Paul Woolverton can be reached at 910-261-4710 and firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thank you for supporting our journalism. You can subscribe to our print edition, ad-free app or electronic newspaper replica here.
Our fact check work is supported in part by a grant from Facebook.