As Chinese authorities struggle to contain rising Covid-19 infections ahead of the Lunar New Year celebrations, Beijing has introduced anal swabs asa new type of coronavirus test that could detect the virus more accurately.
State-run channel CCTV reported that the tests are reserved for high-risk cases, although there does not appear to be a coordinated policy for them, with reports of surprise tests for some individuals..
This includes passengers arriving in Beijing, residents of quarantine centers and, according to local officials, a group of more than 1,000 schoolchildren and teachers believed to be exposed to the virus.
The test involves inserting a cotton-tipped swab about 1-2 inches into the rectum, which will then be tested for the virus.
Anal swab tests could be more accurate than nose or throat tests, said Li Tongzeng, deputy director of the respiratory and infectious diseases department at Beijing You An Hospital, in an interview with state media.
Li said studies show that the virus lasts longer in the anus or excrement than in the respiratory tract and that an anal test could be better at identifying the disease in mild or asymptomatic cases.
Forbes has reached out to China’s health agency for more details on the new test’s rollout and approached the U.S. CDC and FDA to see whether they have plans to introduce anal swab tests.
China has been willing to take extreme measures to stop the spread of Covid-19 in its borders, locking down entire cities or even provinces to contain outbreaks, quarantining new arrivals for lengthy periods of time and there are reports of forced testing. The approach appears to have been been largely successful, however, and the world’s most populous country has managed to avoid the high caseloads and death tolls seen in other other nations. Life in Wuhan, where the virus was first detected just over a year ago, is largely back to normal. Cases have started to rise again and authorities are mounting a desperate bid to contain outbreaks and vaccinate millions ahead of the upcoming Lunar New Year, where millions are expected to travel across the country.
Not all experts agree with the use of anal swabs to test for a respiratory illness. Yang Zhanqiu, a pathology expert at Wuhan University, told China’s Global Times that nose and throat swabs are the most efficient tests for Covid-19. “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 said.
China deploys anal swabs to test for Covid-19 (AFP)
China rolls out anal swab coronavirus tests, saying it’s more accurate than throat method (Washington Post)
China’s Zero-Tolerance Covid Approach Now Includes Anal Swabs (Bloomberg)
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