Fact Check: 'Dr. Derek Knauss' Did NOT Prove 1,500 COVID-19 Samples Were Actually Influenza

Fact Check

  • by: Madison Dapcevich

STORY UPDATED: check for updates below.

Fact Check: 'Dr. Derek Knauss' Did NOT Prove 1,500 COVID-19 Samples Were Actually Influenza Not A Doctor

Did a medical expert named Dr. Derek Knauss (or Knaus) prove that 1,500 COVID-19 diagnostic tests did not actually contain traces of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, but did test positive for influenza A and B? No, that's not true: Lead Stories found no evidence that any such research has taken place or been published in a reputable scientific journal. Extensive searches for a medical professional under the name "Dr. Derek Knauss" did not return any legitimate results.

The claim originated in a video shared on Facebook on January 21, 2023. The video had a text overlay that read, "Dr. Derek Knauss." An unidentified person stated the following on-camera:

I am a scientist and have tested 1,500 supposed positive COVID-19 samples collected here in Southern California. When my lab team and I did the testing ... under a scanning electron microscope, we found no COVID in any of the 1,500 samples. What we found was that all of the 1,500 samples were mostly influenza A and some were influenza B, but not a single case of COVID ...

We then sent the remainder of the samples to Stanford, Cornell and a few of the University of California labs, and they found the same results as we did: No COVID. They found influenza A and B.

All of us then spoke to the CDC and asked for viable samples of COVID, which CDC [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] said they could not provide as they did not have any samples.

We have now come to the firm conclusion, through our research and lab work, that the COVID-19 was imaginary and fictitious.

Below is a screenshot of the video as it appeared at the time of this fact check's publication:

image (7).png

(Source: Facebook screenshot taken Tues Jan 24 10:32:00 2023 UTC )

There is no study found in any scientific database that shows these claims to be true. No peer-reviewed legitimate study has been published that describes testing 1,500 positive COVID samples. The state of California also has no record of a "Dr. Derek Knauss" or "Knaus." In an email to Lead Stories received on January 26, 2023, Heather Harper, director of the University of California Health Communication, confirmed that the university system did not receive such samples and that "these claims have been proven to be false and a hoax."

Extensive searches conducted both by Lead Stories and other reputable fact checking organizations found neither a doctor by this name, nor any study conducted on 1,500 "positive COVID-19 samples" that has been published in reputable scientific literature or databases, as of January 26, 2023.

An article published by the fact-checking website Snopes on December 28, 2020, reported that the above message was first shared by an anonymous user in the comments section of a blog post published on December 6, 2020 (archived here). The statement was falsely attributed to Rob Oswald, a professor at Cornell University's Department of Molecular Medicine. In a public statement (found under "Research Interests" on his faculty biography page), Oswald denied that his research was in any way affiliated with this post, writing:

COVID-19 is real. Any Facebook post that suggests otherwise is a hoax and is not true. Wear a mask, practice social distancing, and get the vaccine when it becomes available.

The supposed message was recirculated in a video widely shared in April 2021 and then fact-checked by a number of reputable media outlets, including Poynter, Science Health Feedback and Agence France-Presse. Myth Detector, a project of the Media Development Foundation, identified the man in the video as Patrick Gunnels, an internet personality known for posting videos of himself reading various threads. Gunnels ran a YouTube channel titled Reading Epic Threads, created in 2019. The video platform terminated the channel for violating its community guidelines.

Lead Stories contacted Gunnels on Twitter to determine the source of the information he shared in the above video. In response to a messaging request, he responded, "Ew no."

A text overlay on the 2023 version of the social-media video implies that the message was written by a Dr. Derek Knauss. Lead Stories searched the California Department of Consumer Affairs for a physician named "Derek Knauss," but did not find any results. The Spanish fact-checking organization Maldita previously reported that the name "Derek Knaus" did not appear on either ResearchGate or Google Scholar, two prominent web search engines for scholarly literature. An additional Lead Stories search for "Derek Knauss" through the two databases also did not return any results.

The video goes on to suggest that COVID has been mistaken for the influenza viruses, which proves that the respiratory infection is not real. That is false, and Lead Stories has previously debunked such claims. SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID, has been isolated and genetically sequenced in laboratories around the world.

Lead Stories contacted Cornell University, Stanford University and the CDC to determine if they were aware of the study described in the video. If we receive a response, we will update this article accordingly.

Additional Lead Stories fact checks of claims about COVID-19 can be found here.


  • 2023-01-26T23:22:50Z 2023-01-26T23:22:50Z
    Updated to add response from University of California system, which is that the claim is false.

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Lead Stories is working with the CoronaVirusFacts/DatosCoronaVirus Alliance, a coalition of more than 100 fact-checkers who are fighting misinformation related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Learn more about the alliance here.

  Madison Dapcevich

Raised on an island in southeast Alaska, Madison grew up a perpetually curious tidepooler and has used that love of science and innovation in her now full-time role as a science reporter for the fact-checking publication Lead Stories.

Read more about or contact Madison Dapcevich

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