South African health authorities may have uncovered a “spit scam” in which tuberculosis sufferers sell spit samples to healthy South Africans trying to qualify for disability grants.

Samples of TB spit were selling for anything between 10 rand and 30 rand ($7) in villages in the Eastern Cape, said provincial health spokesman Sizwe Kupelo.

“There were people from different villages who were selling their spit to people that are not suffering from TB because they wanted to apply for the disability grant,” Mr Kupelo said.

Health officials were alerted to the “spit scam” while visiting villages around the Qumbu area, some 800km southeast of Johannesburg.

“I would assume they use toilet paper or plastic to just wrap the spit or small cans,” said cKupelo.

“If it is true it was done out of ignorance, you can’t just go to a doctor with spit, you have to cough,” said Mr Kupela, explaining that a sick person had to get a medical certificate from a doctor to prove he was suffering from TB.

The government gives disability grants to those who do not recover from the illness despite taking medicine, in most cases because they are suffering from AIDS.
Apart from it being nonsensical, it also posed a health risk, Mr Kupelo said.

“This thing (TB) spreads fast through the air, if you walk around carrying the spit then it’s a danger.”

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