Health authorities in China have deployed anal swab tests to detect covid-19 in the lead up to the Lunar New Year celebrations, according to the Chinese state media outlet the Global Times, a technique that some claim might be more accurate than traditional nasal swabs, throat swabs, and antibody tests. But not everyone is convinced anal swabs are necessarily better.
The Global Times cites Li Tongzeng at Beijing You’an Hospital, a proponent of anal swabs who claims that “the coronavirus survives longer in the anus or excrement than those taken from upper body tracts,” noting the anal swabs are only being taken in a relatively limited capacity.
But the method might be a little more common than Li is letting on. Anal swabs are being deployed in Beijing quarantine as well as in some school settings, according to recent reports out of Beijing’s Daxing district.
From the South China Morning Post:
The mass testing was conducted after the capital went into partial lockdown in Daxing and Shunyi, with genetic sequencing revealing two cases of the more transmissible coronavirus variant discovered last month in Britain.
The capital has since been on high alert.
More than 1,200 people were tested at a school attended by one pupil with an asymptomatic case of the British strain. Each of the contacts at the school had nasal, saliva and anal swabs as well as serum tests – all of which were negative.
Needless to say, an anal swab isn’t as convenient as a throat swab or a nasal swab, and there are no reports of other countries that are prioritizing anal swabs for covid-19 tests. The jury is still out on whether anal swabs, which reportedly take about 10 seconds, are more useful than a regular throat swab to test for coronavirus.
ABC News in Australia reports the “invasive” new test is being used outside of Beijing in places like the city of Guangzhou, where one social media user reported her anal swab was administer on her 14th day of quarantine. She also got an oral swab, according to the news outlet. Another social media user in Beijing said the anal swab test made her feel ashamed.
“Just endless shame. No other feelings. Good luck,” the student, reportedly from South Korea, wrote about the swab in China.
But it’s not clear how much good these tests are going to do during the covid-19 pandemic—at least according to experts in other countries who question the necessity of the practice.
“I’m not quite sure what they’re trying to achieve here with all the anal swabs,” Dr. Sanjaya Senanayake told ABC News.
China has seen a recent resurgence of coronavirus in a handful of hotspots, a troubling development as mutant variations from the UK and South Africa have been show to be more contagious. But China is still doing much better than most countries in the world at containing the pandemic, all things considered.
This week the world surpassed the grim milestone of 100 million cases, with over 2.15 million deaths, a likely undercount of the true death toll around the world.
The U.S. has reported 25.4 million cases and more than 425,000 deaths since the pandemic began, according to the Johns Hopkins University coronavirus tracker. The U.S. identified over 143,000 new cases and 3,734 deaths on Tuesday alone.