#TestKitScam: What is the likelihood that a goat and pawpaw tested positive for COVID-19?

Perhaps the last headline you or anyone for that matter will want to read in these uncertain times is “CDC confirms COVID-19 testing kits are contaminated with COVID-19.” What could beat the knowledge that chances are some of the people who have come down with the novel coronavirus might have gotten the disease from the testing kit itself? Fortunately, the world works in more complex ways than that, because we can guarantee you did not see this one coming no matter how shocked you were by the former; “Pawpaw, goat test positive for Coronavirus in Tanzania.”

Anyone who has worked in a diagnostic lab will tell you how a tainted testing kit is the worst nightmare of any pathologist, hence the constant need to sterilize surfaces and items in order to get the best possible result through the elimination of doubt to the barest minimum.

Towards the end of March 2020, reports from Britain’s Coronavirus frontline alerted the rest of the world to a new worrying reality, that the testing kits being imported could arrive contaminated. The country had discovered this when it tried to ramp up its testing, and in order to do so, ordered testing kits from Luxembourg based medical supplies firm Eurofins, which the firm found out was tainted in quality control checks ahead of shipment.

Around the same time, Spain withdrew a batch of rapid tests manufactured by Chinese diagnostics firm Shenzhen Bioeasy Biotechnology after the kits were found to have low sensitivity, which means they were unable to detect infection adequately.

Bioeasy released a statement clarifying that rather than substandard products, what Spain got was a different kind of testing kit that could give inaccurate readings if samples were not collected and processed correctly. The company admits it failed to adequately communicate with clients on how to use the test.

The Chinese authorities ramped up oversight of COVID-19 test kit exports after several European nations complained about faulty test kits imported from China. New regulations require Chinese labs manufacturing COVID-19 tests to obtain a registration certificate to export the kits. Somehow, that does not appear to have helped much since the country’s enterprising entrepreneurs had already shipped out 100s of 1000s of kits in a bid to annex the market that emerged for the item following the global spread of COVID-19, the illness caused by novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2.


Tanzanian President, John Magufuli came out on Sunday to dismiss imported coronavirus testing kits as faulty, saying they returned positive results on samples taken from a goat and pawpaw. The country as at Sunday had recorded 480 cases of COVID-19 and 17 deaths but unlike most other African countries, Dar es Salaam sometimes goes for days without offering updates, with the last bulletin on cases on Wednesday last week.

It is easy therefore to dismiss the revelation from Magufuli’s as state propaganda to cover for the government’s failure to be proactive. America’s president, Donald Trump,  had employed similar rhetoric weeks after pundits described his handling of the case as  ‘dangerous foot-dragging’ in the initial weeks of being privy to information from WHO about a coming pandemic.

The US has since begun home production of testing kits partly to mitigate this occurrence, yet the Atlanta based CDC lab in charge of that violated manufacturing practices, resulting in contamination of one of the three test components used in the highly sensitive detection process, confirmed scientists. The contamination most likely occurred because chemical mixtures were assembled into the kits within a lab space that was also handling synthetic coronavirus material.

The truth about contamination is that it can happen anywhere, as any pathologist worth h(er)is salt would tell you for free. It could happen in the assembly line, over the course of shipment, or after landing, even during handling.

Hence the hasty conclusion from randomly sampling domestic animals and fruit, to arriving at the hypothesis that the kits are imported tainted will be baffling to anyone who knows how easily a diagnostic tool is contaminated in an atmosphere that is rich with oftentimes innocuous microbes. Knowing that the COVID-19 virus can be airborne and remain on surfaces for hours, the logical thing to do is to tighten any loopholes rather than create panic with a new conspiracy about sinister foreign governments out to get us all. We have barely recovered from the 5G theory, which the Nigerian Senate, as it appears, has taken seriously. God help us all.

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