China's use of anal swabs to test for Covid-19 has experts divided: 'Low harm, but extreme humiliation'

According to some experts, the method is more accurate and significantly increases the chances of detecting the pathogen -- even in those who are asymptomatic. Meanwhile, others have suggested that there is no need for an anal swab considering the respiratory tract test is more than sufficient.


                            China's use of anal swabs to test for Covid-19 has experts divided: 'Low harm, but extreme humiliation'
A Chinese guard wears a protective mask and suit as he waits at a building in a commercial area on February 21, 2020, in Beijing, China (Getty Images)

Beijing is reportedly testing its residents for coronavirus using anal swabs, instead of the more conventional nose and throat swabs that are being used across the globe. According to some experts, the method is more accurate and significantly increases the chances of detecting the pathogen - even in those who are asymptomatic. Meanwhile, others have suggested that there is no need for an anal swab considering the respiratory tract test is more than sufficient, LadBible reported.

The Chinese capital has reportedly tested more than three million people after a nine-year-old boy tested positive for the disease on Friday. State officials are hoping to slow the spread of the virus by testing as many people as possible and isolating those who are infected. According to the report, a swab must be inserted about two or three centimeters into the rectum and rotated several times in order to collect the nucleic acid samples required for the test. The procedure is repeated twice before the swab is placed into a sterile sample container.

A Chinese girl is swabbed by health workers wearing protective suits as she is given a COVID-19 nucleic acid test as part of a mess testing campaign in Dongcheng District on January 23, 2021, in Beijing, China. (Getty Images)

According to one Chinese disease control expert, anal swabs have actually been in use in the country since last year. However, it has only been used in key groups at quarantine centers owing to the sheer inconvenience of the procedure. The coronavirus survives longer in excrement or the anus than it does in the throat or nasal cavity, according to Li Tongzeng, from the Beijing You'an Hospital.

"We found that some asymptomatic patients tend to recover quickly. It's possible that there will be no trace of the virus in their throat after three to five days," Li told CCTV, according to the Daily Mail. "But the virus lasts longer from the samples taken from the patient's digestive tract and excrement, compared to the ones taken from the respiratory tract. If we conduct anal swabs for nucleic acid testing, it would increase the detection rates of patients and lower the chance of a missed diagnosis."

Another scientist, however, said the throat and nose swab is still the best way to test for the virus considering it is contracted via the respiratory tract and not the digestive tract. "There have been cases concerning the coronavirus testing positive in a patient's excrement, but no evidence has suggested it had been transmitted through one's digestive system," Yang Zhanqui, the deputy director of pathogen biology at Wuhan University, told Global Times.

Chinese passengers, most wearing masks, arrive to board trains before the annual Spring Festival at a Beijing railway station on January 23, 2020, in Beijing, China. (Getty Images)

Chinese social media platform Weibo is abuzz with people sharing jokes about receiving the swabs, according to LadBible. "So lucky I returned to China earlier," one wrote. "Low harm, but extreme humiliation," another commented. "I've done two anal swabs, every time I did one I had to do a throat swab afterwards - I was so scared the nurse would forget to use a new swab," a third added.
 
Meanwhile, Twitter was inundated with curious reactions to the bizarre testing method. "Well, I don’t see drive-thru testing working so well with this method," Dr. David Samadi quipped. "If you thought the nasal swab was invasive, look what they want to stick in the other end..." another user added. "I have been taking nose and throat swab tests every week for, oh, 6 months now or so. I will no longer feel sorry for myself about this," a third user noted.



 

 



 

 



 

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