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Eric Antosh has a nasal swab taken by a nurse at a COVID-19 testing site in Brooklyn, N.Y., run by NYC Health + Hospitals on July 8, 2020. (AP) Eric Antosh has a nasal swab taken by a nurse at a COVID-19 testing site in Brooklyn, N.Y., run by NYC Health + Hospitals on July 8, 2020. (AP)

Eric Antosh has a nasal swab taken by a nurse at a COVID-19 testing site in Brooklyn, N.Y., run by NYC Health + Hospitals on July 8, 2020. (AP)

Tom Kertscher
By Tom Kertscher July 13, 2020

No proof that nasal swabs, the preferred COVID test, are ‘implanting something’

If Your Time is short

  • Nasal swabs are preferred over mouth swabs as a more accurate way of testing for COVID-19.

  • There’s no evidence nasal swabs are used for “implanting something.”

Could coronavirus testers be doing more than just testing with their nasal swabs?

An ominous Facebook post suggests that instead of just retrieving a sample with a swab to test for the presence of COVID-19, testers are "implanting something."

The post, shared 320,000 times, argues it this way:

"1) Modern Science can take a swab from the inside of your cheek and do a COMPLETE DNA MAPPING. 2) If this COVID-19 is so CONTAGIOUS that tiny microscopic particles of Saliva in your MOUTH could spread out in excess of 6 feet and you need to wear a mask to stop the Spread. WHY not Swab the inside of your HIGHLY CONTAGIOUS MOUTH ? 3) When you tilt your head back are you sure that is just a Q-Tip going 6 inches up your nose ? - Is it possible that instead of retreiving a SAMPLE, they could actually be IMPLANTING SOMETHING ? ? ? Again DNA can be done at home through the mail with simple MOUTH SWAB but the HIGHLY CONTAGIOUS COVID-19 in your MASK COVERED MOUTHS can't be tested with a Mouth Swab ? ?"

The post was flagged as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Facebook.)

Tests that extract samples from where the nasal cavity connects with the throat are considered the most accurate, and there is no evidence of testers implanting anything.

How the test works

Here’s how the test is described by Dr. Micah Bhatti, an infectious-diseases professor at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston:

"The person conducting the test will insert a long stick with a very soft brush on the end — kind of like a pipe cleaner — up your nose and twirl it around for a few seconds. The soft bristles will collect a sample of secretions there for analysis. The swab has to go pretty far back, because cells and fluids must be collected from along the entire passageway that connects the base of the nose to the back of the throat to get a really good specimen.

Featured Fact-check

"Tests can be performed on other specimen types that are less invasive, such as a throat swab. But they are less sensitive than the COVID-19 nasal swab test. Saliva is another specimen type that is being explored, but the jury is still out on that one."

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends upper respiratory system tests. And the Mayo Clinic says: "Though not considered the best way to get a good sample, a saliva test may be done if discomfort is an issue with a nose or throat swab."

Debunked testing conspiracies

Similar conspiracy theories have emerged about the tests and have been debunked:

We rated as Pants on Fire a claim that "the spot where they are ‘getting a sample’ for the COVID-19 test is called your Blood-Brain Barrier." The swabs do not go anywhere near the blood-brain barrier, the name given to the unique protective properties found in blood vessels that supply blood to the central nervous system. And there is no evidence that getting a COVID-19 test could cause anything more serious than temporary irritation.

We rated as False a claim that Bill Gates and George Soros want to "secretly stick you with a chip while testing you for the coronavirus." There was no evidence to back the claim.

A number of fact-checks, including by USA Today and AFP Fact Check, also found no evidence for the implanting theory. 

Our ruling

A Facebook post claims COVID-19 testing could be done with mouth swabs, so maybe deeper swabbing is "implanting something."

Mouth swabs can be done for testing, though nasal swabs are considered more accurate. There’s no evidence of "implanting."

We rate the statement Mostly False.

Our Sources

Facebook, post (archived here), July 7, 2020

USA Today, "Fact check: Though nasal test for COVID-19 swabs deep into the nose, nothing is implanted," July 11, 2020

PolitiFact, "No, the COVID-19 test is not going anywhere near your blood-brain barrier," July 8, 2020

PolitiFact, "There’s no plot to microchip people during COVID-19 tests," May 28, 2020

University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, "11 things to know about COVID-19 testing," July 10, 2020

Mayo Clinic, "COVID-19 diagnostic testing," June 27, 2020

AFP Fact Check, "Posts falsely claim coronavirus testing is an excuse to implant Gates-funded microchips," June 11, 2020

Email, Dr. Amesh Adalja, senior scholar, Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, July 13, 2020

Email, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention spokeswoman Kristen Nordlund, July 13, 2020

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More by Tom Kertscher

No proof that nasal swabs, the preferred COVID test, are ‘implanting something’

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