Soft drinks can be misused to give false “false positive” SARS-CoV-2 lateral flow device results

Oni, L ORCID: 0000-0002-1532-2390, Hawcutt, DB, Buchan, IE and Semple, MG
(2021) Soft drinks can be misused to give false “false positive” SARS-CoV-2 lateral flow device results.

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<h4>Background</h4> The COVID-19 pandemic created the need for very large scale, rapid testing to prevent and contain transmission of the SARS-CoV-2 virus. Lateral flow device (LFD) immunoassays meet this need by indicating the presence of SARS-CoV-2 antigen from nose/throat swab washings in 30 minutes without laboratory processing, and can be manufactured quickly at low cost. Since March 2021, UK schools have asked pupils without symptoms to test twice weekly. Pupils have posted on social media about using soft drinks to create positive results. The aim of this study was to systematically test a variety soft drinks to determine whether they can cause false “false positive” LFD results. <h4>Methods</h4> This study used 14 soft drinks and 4 artificial sweeteners to determine the outcome of misusing them as analyte for the Innova SARS-CoV-2 antigen rapid qualitative LFD. The pH value, sugar content and ingredients of each sample are described. The LFD results were double read and a subset was repeated using the same devices and fake analytes but differently sourced. <h4>Findings</h4> One sample (1/14; 7%), spring water, produced a negative result. Ten drinks (10/14; 71%) produced a positive or weakly positive result. Three samples (3/14; 21%) produced void results, mostly the fruit concentrate drinks. There was no apparent correlation between the pH value (pH 5.0 in 13/14, 93%; pH 6.5 in 1/14; 7%) or the sugar content (range 0-10.7 grams per 100mls) of the drinks and their LFD result. The 4 artificial sweeteners all produced negative results. A subset of the results was fully replicated with differently sourced materials. <h4>Interpretation</h4> Several soft drinks can be misused to give false positive SARS-CoV-2 LFD results. Daily LFD testing should be performed first thing in the morning, prior to the consumption of any food or drinks, and supervised where feasible. <h4>Funding</h4> This work was self-funded by author LO and the LFD were gifted for use in this study. <h4>Research in context</h4> <h4>Evidence before this study</h4> Lateral flow devices (LFD) for SARS-CoV-2 antigen testing have been used extensively in the UK and internationally in COVID-19 pandemic responses, providing rapid testing at low cost Recent reports from young people on social media suggested soft drinks might be misused as LFD analyte and produce a seemingly positive result <h4>Added value of this study</h4> Various common soft drinks used as fake analyte can produce false positive SARS-CoV-2 LFD results Artificial sweeteners alone in fake analyte solution did not produce false positive results <h4>Implications of all the available evidence</h4> Soft drinks misused as analyte can produce false “false positive” SARS-CoV-2 LFD results Daily testing is best done first thing in the morning, prior to any food or drink, and under supervision where possible

Item Type: Article
Divisions: Faculty of Health and Life Sciences
Faculty of Health and Life Sciences > Institute of Infection, Veterinary and Ecological Sciences
Faculty of Health and Life Sciences > Institute of Life Courses and Medical Sciences
Faculty of Health and Life Sciences > Institute of Population Health
Depositing User: Symplectic Admin
Date Deposited: 02 Aug 2021 08:47
Last Modified: 06 Sep 2021 23:10
DOI: 10.1101/2021.07.05.21260003