The Chinese Health Ministry has claimed that testing for COVID-19 using anal swabs produced more accurate test results than the conventional nasal cavity and throat testing. This comes a few days after the rise in the transmission of the COVID-19 infections worldwide.
An anal swab test involves inserting a cotton swab 1.2 to 2 inches into the rectum. Once it’s there, the swab is gently rotated several times, then removed and placed into a sample container. The entire process only takes about 10 seconds.
Anal testing is being used so far only on select groups, mainly high-risk cases and people in quarantine. Some people who have been subjected to anal testing include passengers arriving in Beijing and a group of more than 1,000 school children and teachers who were thought to have been exposed to the virus, Forbes reported
Additional tests using anal swabs can pick up infections that other tests miss, as virus traces in faecal samples or anal swabs could remain detectable for a longer time than in samples taken from upper respiratory tract, Dr Li Tongzeng, a respiratory and infectious disease specialist in Beijing city, told state TV last week
“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,” Tongzeng said. “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.”
Even though anal swabs testing seems to be an accurate way of testing for COVID-19, relying solely on this method may not be an ideal way of detecting the disease early. In fact, since this virus enters the body through the respiratory tract, anal swabs could only detect the disease in its later stages after it has entered the digestive tract.
From a medical perspective, anal swab way of testing should be used to test for the virus on recovering patients to ensure that the virus has cleared from their system.
“I don’t understand why Beijing added anal swabs. It’s not like poking the throat. You need a certain place and the risk of such transmission routes is lower,” said Jiang Qingwu, a professor of epidemiology at the School of Public Health at Shanghai’s Fudan University. “Maybe they want to find remnants? It’s true that the virus can be detected there.”