Fact Check

'Luciferase' Is Not an Ingredient in COVID-19 Vaccines

Also, it has nothing to do with Lucifer.

Published Nov. 2, 2021

 (White House / Flickr)
Image courtesy of White House / Flickr
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The Moderna COVID-19 vaccine contains luciferase.

In November 2021, Emerald Robinson, the White House correspondent for Newsmax, a conservative news network that has spread a number of conspiracy theories, posted a message on Twitter falsely claiming to her 400,000+ followers that one of the COVID-19 vaccines contains "luciferase."

This is false. The Moderna COVID-19 vaccine does not contain luciferase.

What Is Luciferase?

This is not the first time that "luciferase" has been used to create fear over the COVID-19 vaccines. Back in April 2021, rumors circulated that the vaccines were called Luciferase, that they had been filed under an "060606" patent, and that this was evidence that the vaccines were connected in some form or other to Satan (or Lucifer).

This is all false.

Luciferase is a genuine scientific term that refers to an enzyme capable of emitting light. If you've ever seen a firefly light up, you've witnessed luciferase in action. These enzymes are often used in research studies because they can help researchers monitor biological processes.

Luciferases are enzymes that use a substrate called luciferin, along with oxygen and ATP, in an energetic process that produces light—like the yellow glow of fireflies. The power of luciferase has been harnessed by scientists to devise reactions whose light output is used to monitor biological processes including gene expression, biomolecular binding, and cell viability.

It's not exactly clear what Robinson meant when she tweeted that Luciferase was being used so "you can be tracked." She seems to be implying that this bioluminescent marker will make vaccinated people glow, making them easier to track, but that's clearly not the case. Close to 200 million people in the United States have been fully vaccinated and as far as we can tell nobody is glowing.

Is Luciferase in COVID-19 Vaccines?

Robinson's tweet (which has since been removed) linked to a video that supposedly showed "evidence" that the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine contains luciferase. In reality, this video highlighted one of the problems with the argument that people should "do their own research."

The video starts with a Google search for "does Moderna vaccine contain Luciferase?" The top result for this search was an article published by Reuters in May 2021 entitled: "Fact Check-Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine does not contain luciferin or luciferase."

Reuters wrote: "The novel coronavirus vaccine manufactured by Moderna does not contain luciferin, an organic compound involved in bioluminescence, or the enzyme luciferase, contrary to claims on social media. While luciferase was involved in some COVID-19 research in the summer of 2020, none of the available vaccines contain either ingredient."

The video then shows this person "doing their own research" as they go to Moderna's website, click through a few pages, and open a PDF related to the company's vaccine patents. The researcher then performs a search for the word "luciferase" and finds a match. While this person presents this discovery as if it's evidence that luciferase is in the vaccine, this video shows no such thing. What this person found was that Moderna referenced a study about "Luciferase" while filing their patent, not that they included Luciferase in the vaccine. The study this person highlighted was published in 2012.

As noted earlier, luciferase was used during the development of the vaccine but it is not one of the ingredients in the vaccine. Here's a list of ingredients in Moderna's COVID-19 vaccine:

"The Moderna COVID-19 Vaccine contains the following ingredients: messenger ribonucleic acid (mRNA), lipids (SM-102, polyethylene glycol [PEG] 2000 dimyristoyl glycerol [DMG], cholesterol, and 1,2-distearoyl-sn-glycero-3-phosphocholine [DSPC]), tromethamine, tromethamine hydrochloride, acetic acid, sodium acetate trihydrate, and sucrose."

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Azad, Taha, et al. “Luciferase-Based Biosensors in the Era of the COVID-19 Pandemic.” ACS Nanoscience Au, Aug. 2021. ACS Publications, https://doi.org/10.1021/acsnanoscienceau.1c00009.

Carlsen, Audrey, et al. “How Is the COVID-19 Vaccination Campaign Going in Your State?” NPR, 1 Nov. 2021. NPR, https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2021/01/28/960901166/how-is-the-covid-19-vaccination-campaign-going-in-your-state.

Birkeland, Bente. “Newsmax Retracts Support For Election Conspiracy Theory That Forced A Colorado Man Into Hiding.” Colorado Public Radio, https://www.cpr.org/2021/04/30/newsmax-dominion-election-security/. Accessed 2 Nov. 2021.

“COVID-19 Vaccines Are Not Called ‘Luciferase.’” AP NEWS, 20 Apr. 2021, https://apnews.com/article/fact-checking-10051582995.

“Fact Check: No Luciferase Enzymes – or Satanic Connections – in Coronavirus Vaccines.” USA TODAY, https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/factcheck/2021/04/23/fact-check-coronavirus-vaccines-do-not-contain-luciferase-enzymes/7260660002/. Accessed 2 Nov. 2021.

“Fact Check-Moderna’s COVID-19 Vaccine Does Not Contain Luciferin or Luciferase.” Reuters, 6 May 2021. www.reuters.com, https://www.reuters.com/article/factcheck-moderna-luciferin-idUSL1N2MT265.

“Is ‘Luciferase’ the Name for the COVID-19 Vaccine?” Snopes.Com, https://www.snopes.com/fact-check/covid-19-vaccine-luciferase/. Accessed 2 Nov. 2021.

“Luciferin | Biochemistry.” Encyclopedia Britannica, https://www.britannica.com/science/luciferin. Accessed 2 Nov. 2021.


Riggs, P. “Fusion Protein.” Brenner’s Encyclopedia of Genetics (Second Edition), edited by Stanley Maloy and Kelly Hughes, Academic Press, 2013, pp. 134–35. ScienceDirect, https://doi.org/10.1016/B978-0-12-374984-0.00565-9.

Dan Evon is a former writer for Snopes.

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