The test involves inserting a cotton-tipped swab of three to five centimetres (1.2 to two inches) into the rectum and gently rotating it.
As Chinese authorities rush to contain rising Covid-19 infections ahead of the Lunar New Year holidays next month, some cities in the country have introduced a new type of Coronavirus test. According to The Guardian, Beijing began using anal swabs last week, as a supposedly much more effective method to detect potential COVID-19 infections. Officials reportedly took anal swabs from residents of neighbourhoods with confirmed Covid-19 cases in the city and from those in designated quarantine facilities. China has been battling new pockets of outbreaks in the north and northeast in recent weeks, resulting in strict lockdowns and mass testing campaigns in a bid to stamp out the outbreaks.
China began using anal swabs to test those it considers at high risk of contracting Covid-19.— BFM News (@NewsBFM) January 27, 2021
Doctors say anal swabs can be more effective in detecting the virus.
This comes as officials took anal swabs from residents of neighbourhoods with Covid-19 cases in Beijing last week. pic.twitter.com/V030Xn8aSw
According to Forbes, state-run channel CCTV reported that the anal swab tests are reserved for high-risk cases. However, there does not appear to be a coordinated policy for them as there have been reports of surprise tests for some individuals. Li Tongzeng, deputy director of the respiratory and infectious diseases department at Beijing Youan Hospital, said in an interview with state media that the anal swabs method — which involves inserting a cotton-tipped swab three to five centimeters (1.2 to two inches) into the rectum and gently rotating it — "can increase the detection rate of infected people."
Lots of straight people freaking out about rectal swab tests seemingly being more accurate for COVID. #CasualHomophobia TBH— Joe Lynch (@joeykins82) January 27, 2021
Having experienced these 4 swab locations here are my rankings from most unpleasant to least-worst:
Li added that studies indicate that the novel Coronavirus lasts longer in the anus or excrement than in the respiratory tract and that an anal test, therefore, could be better at detecting the virus in mild or asymptomatic cases. Further justifying the decision to take anal swabs — which would reportedly not be used as widely as other methods since the technique is "not convenient" — a city official in Weinan in northern Shaanxi province cited the case of a 52-year-old man with symptoms including coughing who initially tested negative for COVID-19.
This will be remembered as a special moment in the annals of pandemic history https://t.co/3X4EFNDCza— Laurent Thomet 卢鸿 (@LThometAFP) January 27, 2021
According to Al Jazeera, the official said that the man was later confirmed to have the virus when tested via an anal swab. The man had been confined to a centralised facility for medical observation after he came in close contact with another COVID-19 patient earlier this month. In a video posted online by the state-backed newspaper Global Times, Zhang Wenhong of Huashan Hospital in Shanghai reportedly said that anal swabs could also be useful in helping minimize the risk of relapse after recovery. "There may be traces of the coronavirus detected in the abdominal cavity faeces and intestine," Zhang was quoted as saying.
A Beijing city official said last week that anal swabs were taken from over 1000 teachers, staffers, and students at a primary school in the city after an infection was detected there. Nose and throat swabs and serum samples were also collected for testing. Meanwhile, the use of anal swabs to test for a respiratory illness has been controversial among certain experts. Yang Zhanqiu, a deputy director of the pathogen biology department at Wuhan University, told reporters that nasal and throat swabs are still the most effective means to detect the virus since the novel Coronavirus has proven to be contracted via the upper respiratory tract rather than the digestive system.
First story I see when I log on this morning. This is a weird time we're living in. https://t.co/RTkoyvGhOJ— Amy Judd (@amyjudd) January 27, 2021
"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," said Yang. Users of Weibo — China's Twitter-like social media platform — reacted to news of the anal swab method with a mix of mirth and horror. "Low harm, but extreme humiliation," one user is said to have commented while another joked: "I've done two anal swabs, every time I did one I had to do a throat swab afterward – I was so scared the nurse would forget to use a new swab."