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False-Negative Stool Occult Blood Tests Caused by Ingestion of Ascorbic Acid (Vitamin C)

R. M. JAFFE, M.D., Ph.D.; B. KASTEN, M.D.; D. S. YOUNG, M.B., Ph.D.; and J. D. MacLOWRY, M.D.
[+] Article and Author Information

▸Requests for reprints should be addressed to Russell M. Jaffe, M.D., Ph.D., Bldg. 10, Room 4-N-309, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD 20014.


Bethesda, Maryland


Ann Intern Med. 1975;83(6):824-826. doi:10.7326/0003-4819-83-6-824
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In a female patient with unexplained anemia, ascorbic acid ingestion and apparent false-negative occult blood tests were related. When she stopped ascorbic acid, her stools became strongly reactive ("4+") by three tests for occult stool blood; this association was observed repeatedly. A test developed to measure stool occult blood in the presence of ascorbic acid remained reactive throughout this observation, and the observation was confirmed by in-vitro studies. Current tests for occult blood depend on the pseudoperoxidase activity of heme and are inhibited by low levels of ascorbic acid. Reducing substances chemically similar to ascorbic acid also inhibits occult blood tests; oxidized ascorbic acid and sulfhydryl reducing agents do not inhibit them at physiologic levels.

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