We’ve faced so many indignities over the last year due to COVID-19. China now says that a COVID-19 anal test is more accurate than throat or nose swabs. Might we soon need an anal test in order to travel?
COVID-19 Anal Test
China has introduced a new COVID-19 testing protocol for those in quarantine. The test requires inserting a cotton swab three to five centimeters (one to two inches) into the rectum, then rotating it multiple times.
With COVID-19 cases rising in Beijing last week, doctors have heralded the new testing method on state TV, noting it will be helpful in controlling cases ahead of the high risk Lunar New Year, a period in which millions of Chinese traditionally travel. Beijing city officials noted that anal swabs were taken from more than 1,000 teachers, staffers, and students at a primary school last week after a coronavirus outbreak in which many tested positive.
The controversy is not settled though. In recent days, the Global Times, a state-run news outlet, noted that the procedure remains controversial, with some doctors arguing nasal and throat swabs were more effective because coronavirus is a respiratory tract infection.
“If we add anal swab testing, it can raise our rate of identifying infected patients,” Li Tongzeng, an infectious-disease specialist at Beijing You’an Hospital, said on state-run broadcaster CCTV on Sunday. “But of course, considering that collecting anal swabs is not as convenient as throat swabs, at the moment only key groups such as those in quarantine receive both.”
But a study recently published in China supports the theory that anal swabs are more effective:
“Intriguingly, SARS-CoV-2 detection was positive in the anal swab of two patients and negative in throat swab and sputum samples…We propose anal swabs as the potentially optimal specimen for SARS-CoV-2 detection for evaluation of hospital discharge of covid-19 patients.”
Will We See This In The USA Too?
With Chinese authorities now making anal COVID-19 testing mandatory, can we expect the same in the United States? Might this become a travel requirement?
Just because virus traces may remain longer in the anus than in the respiratory tract does not mean that anal testing is better for gauging transmissibility of the disease. There are also no test results to suggest that COVID-19 can be spread via the human digestive system.
With mass testing and the effectiveness of rapid antigen testing already concerns, China has begun using COVID-19 anal testing. Scientists disagree on the effectiveness of such testing, but it could soon be another tool around the world to diagnose illness.
As one person noted, “For a year, COVID has been giving it to us up the a$$. Now, you can test for it there…”