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These 10 Drinks Can Lead to a False Positive COVID Test, New Study Says

As at-home testing kits grow more widely available, scientists discover a suspicious user hack.

The increasing number of at-home testing kits for COVID-19 makes it convenient to test for COVID-19, plus considerably safer than risking exposure by going for testing at a public location. However, a group of infectious disease researchers have discovered that for someone who actually wants a positive COVID-19 test result, getting it may be as easy as stopping by a convenience store's beverage cooler.

A group of scientists studying tropical medicine at Germany's Tübingen University recently published a study in the International Journal of Infectious Disease. They noted that while PCR COVID-19 tests are still the gold standard for accuracy, self-testing COVID-19 antigen kits are reasonably on-target and have led to efficient test results in schools and workplaces, not to mention homes and other common settings.

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But, the scientists added, there are simple ways a consumer can fabricate a positive COVID-19 lateral flow test: By applying certain everyday beverages directly onto some COVID-19 lateral flow test cassettes.

So, that's exactly what the researchers did, using the Abbott Panbio COVID-19 Ag Lateral Flow Test. Of the beverages they employed, they reported:

"We observed that all soft drinks (Coca-Cola, Coca-Cola Zero, Fanta-Orange, Orange soft drink), energy drink (Red Bull), alcoholic beverages (vodka, whiskey, and brandy), commercially bottled mineral water, and carbonated mineral water caused the appearance of a red test line."

That red test line, of course, indicated positive infection.

The researchers explained the science behind this effect by saying it could be due to "an altered pH in these solutions, which could modulate the function of the antibodies coated in the test line." They also added that when an at-home COVID-19 test is used correctly, it may be considered reliable.

That's if you can get your hands on one, as reports suggest some states are selling out of at-home COVID-19 tests.

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Krissy Gasbarre
Krissy is a senior news editor at Eat This, Not That!, managing morning and weekend news related to nutrition, wellness, restaurants and groceries (with a focus on beverages), and more. Read more about Krissy