Authorities in China have introduced anal swabs as a new type of coronavirus test that could detect the virus more accurately as they struggle to contain rising infections ahead of the Lunar New Year celebrations.
This comes after local outbreaks in the country led to China shutting off many of its northern cities.
Before, coronavirus tests were mostly being carried out with nose and throat swabs.
However, the new anal test involves a swab being inserted around two to three centimetres (0.8 to 1.2 inches) into the rectum and being rotated multiple times. The swab is then taken out and sealed in a sample container, a process reported to take around 10 seconds.
Li Tongzeng, a senior doctor from Beijing’s Youan hospital, says the anal swab method “can increase the detection rate of infected people”.
He says this is because virus traces remain longer in the anus than in the respiratory tract, where you collect nasal and throat swabs.
He told CCTV: “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.
“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”.
News of the new anal swabs has been met with criticism from some experts.
Yang Zhanqiu, a deputy director of the pathogen biology department at Wuhan University, told state media, Global Times that nasal and throat swabs remain more efficient tests as the virus is a respiratory disease.
He adds: “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”.