A photo of an article saying that the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) “admits there is no COVID-19” has gone viral on social media.
However, we found that the report in the photo misrepresents a CDC document from July 2020 that talked about how the RT-PCR test works.
The photo was posted on Facebook with a caption that read, “Do you believe it now or do you need to see it on TV first?” It was then shared by several other users.
The report in the photo said that “no one has isolated the COVID-19 virus” and “therefore, no one has proved that it exists”. The writer then mentions a CDC document and quotes a paragraph that said, “Since no quantified virus isolates of the 2019-nCoV are currently available, assays designed for detection of the 2019-nCoV RNA were tested with characterised stocks of in vitro transcribed full-length RNA.”
The report in the photo was written by Jon Rappoport, who also shared it on his Twitter handle and his blog titled, “No more fake news”.
WHAT WE FOUND OUT
We searched for the article on Google and found that it was originally published in a monthly online publication called “The Light”, a self-proclaimed “truthpaper”. The publication gives space to known anti-vaccination groups and individuals who spread conspiracy theories. The report in the viral photo was part of their October 2020 issue.
We also looked up the CDC document mentioned in the story that was titled, “CDC 2019-Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) Real-Time RT-PCR Diagnostic Panel”. The document was published in July and talks about the steps involved in a diagnostic test used to identify SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.
The part of the CDC document highlighted in the viral photo was describing the scientific process used to determine smallest amount of viral genetic material that the RT-PCR test could detect.
The Quint talked to Dr Satyajit Rath, an adjunct faculty of IISER Pune and an immunologist, who explained the process to us.
“While the virus isolates are available, we didn't know what the exact amounts were. To measure the exact amount of anything, one needs to have something to weigh it with. So we needed an already known amount of virus to use as a standard of comparison to determine exactly how much virus was present in the tube. But in this case, since the virus was new, we didn't have any pre-measured virus,” Dr Rath said.
“Hence, known quantities of artificially made copies of the virus RNA (‘transcribed’ RNA) were used as surrogate measures. Graded quantities of these also helped to determine the limit of detection, meaning the smallest amount of viral RNA that will show a detectable signal in the RT-PCR test,” he added.
The United States of America developed the viral test in early 2020 using the information available from Chinese scientists who had isolated the virus in early January. The US Food and Drug Administration authorised the use of the test in February 2020, two weeks after the first case was detected in the USA.
The “lack of quantifiable virus isolates” mentioned in the CDC document was because there were no cases in the US while the test was made. Since then, several coronavirus isolates have been stocked and cultured in laboratories around the world. India too has successfully isolated the coronavirus, which is the first step to vaccine development.
Thus, while the document mentioned in the report exists, the statements used to describe the scientific process of testing has been misinterpreted by the writer.