Video makes false claims about Morgellons disease and COVID-19 tests
CLAIM: Nasal swabs used for COVID-19 tests contain Morgellons disease fibers that are being put in your brain when you are tested for the virus.
AP’S ASSESSMENT: False. COVID-19 nasal test swabs are not being used to implant disease particles or “fibers” into the brain. Morgellons disease, which some patients describe as fibers appearing from skin sores, is a controversial condition that has been labeled by some medical experts as a “delusional infestation.”
THE FACTS: Since the pandemic was declared last year, posts online have falsely speculated that COVID-19 tests are being used to inject Americans with microchips, nanoparticles and now disease “fibers” into the brain.
A recent TikTok video making the false claim was viewed more than 1.7 million times and liked more than 120,000 times.
In the TikTok post, a woman attempts to describe what is taking place in a video that she plays on her computer screen. The woman claims the video shows a nurse who took apart a swab used in COVID-19 tests and found that the fibers were moving on their own because they were fibers from Morgellons disease.
Morgellons sufferers say the condition appears in a crawling sensation on their skin or skin sores with fibers.
She goes on to say that people administering COVID-19 tests are putting Morgellons fibers on patients’ brains.
“They are not going to want you to see this,” she says after the video plays.
But the claims in the video are false. The swabs shown in the video are CLASSIQSwabs, which contain rayon, polyester and cotton. There is no evidence of disease particles in those swabs. Nor is there COVID research that indicates there is any truth to this video, said Neysa Ernst, nurse manager in the Department of Medicine at Johns Hopkins Hospital.
“This video is a fake,” said Dr. Aaron E. Glatt, fellow and spokesperson for the Infection Diseases Society of America.
Furthermore, the video makes false claims about Morgellons disease, which some medical studies have shown is an unproven condition. Glatt described the condition as a neuropsychiatric disorder because patients are suffering symptoms that have no cause.
“There is no proof to it whatsoever that it is caused by an infectious disease,” Glatt said about Morgellons disease. “It is not a disease by an organism or anything that is moving.”
The video shown in the TikTok post was first shared on Facebook in January. In that video, a woman uses tweezers to take apart a cotton swab and compare it to a swab used for COVID-19 nasal tests.
“Do you see what the COVID test says, tip wrapped with traditional fiber,” she says in the video. “Well, this fiber that’s on here is the same fiber that comes out of my body, these are nanoparticles. These particles are alive and they move.”
But nanoparticles are microscopic and cannot be seen with the naked eye. Though the woman in the video claims the fibers are from Morgellons disease, the only reasoning she provides for this false assertion is that the swab used for COVID-19 tests has fibers that are silver in color, and appear to be alive and moving. The entire video, however, shakes when she is showing the fibers, suggesting she is moving the camera.
“Nothing makes any scientific sense about what they are suggesting,” said Dr. Steven R. Feldman, professor of dermatology at Wake Forest School of Medicine, of the video.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention conducted a 4-year study that found the Morgellons disease is similar to delusional infestation, where people believe their body is infested with organisms. Delusional infestation is often treated with therapy.
Laboratory analysis of the fibers found from people complaining of Morgellons disease were found to be from cotton.
“No common underlying medical condition or infectious source was identified, similar to more commonly recognized conditions such as delusional infestation,” the study found.
While the video makes baseless claims, Glatt says its impact is damaging.
“There are people who will listen to this and not get vaccines or swabs and appropriately tested,” Glatt said. “They will not identify that they have an illness and get therapy and will continue to be contagious and potentially infect other people.”
This is part of The Associated Press’ ongoing effort to fact-check misinformation that is shared widely online, including work with Facebook to identify and reduce the circulation of false stories on the platform.
Here’s more information on Facebook’s fact-checking program: https://www.facebook.com/help/1952307158131536