China: Anal swab tests the latest embarrassment emerging from COVID-19 crisis

K J M Varma
·3-min read

Beijing, Jan 28 (PTI) Amid a flare-up of COVID-19 cases across the country, Chinese citizens may have to undergo an embarrassing anal swab test for virus detection, prompting some of them to vent their ire on social media.

Beijing has rolled out the anal swab tests for key groups, focusing on persons returning from abroad and living in high-risk areas, state-run Global Times reported on Thursday.

According to health experts, taking an anal swab can increase the accuracy in detection of the virus, as according to studies the virus survives longer in the anus or excrement than in samples taken from the upper body tracts, the report said.

An internet user on Xiaohongshu, a social media platform, said that she had a 'mental meltdown' when she was informed that anal swabs were needed along with other samples, including nasal swabs, throat swabs, blood draws, and saliva tests, after she returned from overseas and was quarantined for 28 days.

Another netizen spoke of feeling a sense of shame though not discomfort.

Given the unpleasant experience when taking such tests, some have asked whether it is necessary to adopt the method on top of the current ones, which have proved effective, the Global Times report said.

Addressing such concerns, Deputy Director of the Infections Department at Peking Union Medical College Hospital, Cao Wei, explained that they have found both from follow-up data of people infected with COVID-19 and from SARS in 2003 that the human body's detoxification through defecation is a phenomenon that occurs during infection.

Furthermore, studies have shown the coronavirus lives longer in the anus or excrement than in upper body tracts, and for some silent carriers, the virus may be present in their throats for only three to five days, resulting in some tests providing false negative results, said Li Tongzeng, deputy director in charge of infectious diseases at Beijing You'an Hospital.

As for the controversy over the anal swab method, Cao noted that people are still developing their understanding of the virus. 'It's unsure whether the defecated virus is still infectious,' he said.

China has administered 22.77 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines and increased its daily testing capacity for the virus to 15 million in a stepped-up drive to combat the latest resurgence of coronavirus cases in the country ahead of the Chinese New Year holidays in February.

A team of experts from the World Health Organisation is currently in the central Chinese city of Wuhan to start field work in a fact-finding mission on the origins of the virus that caused the COVID-19 pandemic in late 2019.

China on Wednesday reported 54 newly confirmed COVID-19 cases, including 41 locally transmitted ones, the National Health Commission said on Thursday.

Twenty-eight locally transmitted cases were reported in Heilongjiang, nine in Jilin, three in Hebei and one in Shaanxi, the commission said in its daily report.

The total number of confirmed COVID-19 cases on the mainland reached 89,326 on Wednesday and 4,636 people have died as a result of the virus, according to the commission. PTI KJV IND AKJ IND IND