Fact Check-Unidentified particles in vaccine samples under the microscope are likely contamination

A self-described osteopathic physician who claims she saw a self-aware organism point at her from a sterile COVID-19 vaccine sample has likely misjudged her findings of common contamination debris, experts have told Reuters.

Two separate videos viewed tens of thousands of times (here and here) feature a woman called Dr Carrie Madej, who describes her “upsetting” results after inspecting a sample of the Moderna vaccine under a microscope.

Madej says she left the sample slide in a room temperature area for more than two hours, by which time the originally translucent formula began to develop several patches of colour.

“I’ve never seen anything like this,” she says in the video, before cycling through a series of pictures from her slides.

Revealing three initial images of long, thin unidentified objects (timestamp, 3:47, 3:53 and 3:59: here), she describes spotting “fibres” and “metallic fragments I’m not used to seeing.”

She then shows a picture which is said to include a second glass slide placed on top of the sample (timestamp 4:19), where “all the particulates moved to the edge and there was self-assembling going on. They were growing.”

A final picture (timestamp 4:36) shows an object with “tentacles coming from it,” says Madej.

“It was able to lift itself up off the glass slide… it appeared to be self-aware or be able to grow or move in space… It knows we’re watching it. It’s just an intuition, a feeling of mine, it was very upsetting.”

In a separate clip (timestamp 11:44: here), Madej describes the moment in more detail, explaining: “It was in 3D, suspended in space, and one of its little tentacles actually moved – so it was alive – and it was actually pointed up through the lens where my eye piece is.”

Madej suggests the tentacled creature is a freshwater polyp called hydra vulgaris, a claim already debunked by Reuters here.

However, the claim that these images are evidence of metallic fragments or living organisms in sterile COVID-19 vaccines is also baseless.

“These guys look at dust particles and fabric fibres and other bits of mess under the microscope, take some blurry pictures and pretend they found something amazing,” said Matthias Eberl, professor of translational immunology at the University of Cardiff, who spoke to Reuters over the phone.

“They look like things like fabric fibres, cotton fibres or house dust. If you don’t keep your microscope or cover slides clean, this is what it’ll look like.”

Describing the pictures as “definite contamination,” he added: “Then they leave their samples under the microscope and watch them for hours - that’s when samples dry out, get warm from the light source, and the salt in the solutions starts to form crystals.”

Experts at Meedan’s Health Desk, a group of public health scientists working to tackle medical misinformation online, labelled Madej’s claims “hearsay” and “unrealistic” given there is no proof, peer review or validation that her images show a recently-sealed Moderna vaccine vial over a two-hour period.

The group also told Reuters the particles could be common contaminants. “If these images are real, it’s very likely they could just be fibres from clothing, skin cells, or any other dust in the room,” they said in an email.

“We have no reason to believe this was a sterilized, decontaminated lab so any number of bacteria or microbes or moulds or viruses could have been circulating in the air causing either chemical or biological contamination.”

They added that several factors may cause a change in sample appearance in a non-sterile lab, including a lack of air filtration, mobile phones on surfaces and aerosols from speaking near the specimen.

Eberl directed Reuters to multiple microscopic pictures of common debris, including house dust (here and here), and cotton fibres (here). He also sent pictures of plant hairs (here , here and here), which appear to have tentacle-like arms.

When presented with Madej’s claim that the particles could move, he said: “Things in watery solutions always wiggle around, it’s called ‘Brownian motion.’

“This is just a mess. If it’s so important, why not use a better microscope and take proper pictures? With a bit of effort we could have a much nicer microscopic picture of whatever it is.”


False. The particles picked up on vaccine samples under the microscope are not living organisms in a sterile vaccine sample. They are more likely to be debris such as house dust, skin cells or cotton fibres picked up through contamination.

This article was produced by the Reuters Fact Check team. Read more about our fact-checking work here.