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China Uses Anal Swabs To Detect High-Risk COVID-19 Cases, Claims More Accurate Than Oral

Johannes Van Zijl

Johannes Van Zijl

Johannes has a MSci in Neuroscience from King’s College London and serves as the Managing Director at IFLScience.

Managing Director

Gloved testing booth

Special booth with connected gloves to test for COVID-19. Image credit: kampol Jongmeesuk/

According to the Chinese state media outlet, Global Times, China has deployed anal swab testing for COVID-19 in the run-up to the Chinese New Year celebrations to help with more accurate testing due to a surge in new infections in the country. 

"Applying extra anal swabs can improve the detection rate of infection and reduce missed diagnosis," Li Tongzeng, associate director of respiratory and infectious diseases at Beijing's You'an Hospital, told the state broadcaster Central Chinese Television (CCTV), reported ABC news.


Li Tongzeng explained that some studies have shown that the coronavirus survives longer in the anus and feces and that it might be a more accurate test because the virus might only be present for 3-5 days in the throat and nasal cavities of some people, and depending on when they get a nasal or throat swab, it could lead to false-negative results. 

There has been speculation that anal swabs might be more accurate in detecting infection in a subset of patients, especially those that are in quarantine and at higher risk, compared to the more conventional nasal and throat swabs, and anti-body tests. However, not everyone is convinced.

"I'm not quite sure what they're trying to achieve here with all the anal swabs," Dr Sanjaya Senanayake, an infectious diseases expert at the Australian National University, told ABC news

The new approach to COVID-19 testing has people talking on Chinese social media. One student told ABC News that she had the "invasive" test in the city of Guangzhou outside of Beijing during her quarantine period after returning from South Korea: “Just endless shame. No other feelings. Good luck,” she said.


Authorities in China are on high alert and have mass testing ongoing across the country, particularly focused on anyone returning to the country after a period of time abroad. A large COVID-19 screening of 2 million people is also currently underway in Beijing after two cases of the UK variant were detected there. China is currently experiencing its worst wave of new infections since the outbreak of the pandemic and has asked its residents not to travel over the Chinese new year celebrations, due to start on February 12, 2021.

"I am appealing to the public that people should try their best not to travel during the holiday. If they have to … please consider off-peak travel, and pay attention to personal hygiene during the trip and try to avoid crowded places," Zijian Feng, deputy director of the Chinese Centre for Disease Control and Prevention said in a press conference this week.

It's not only China that is experiencing high rates of new infections as a result of new variants spreading around the globe. This week the global case count for COVID-19 surpassed 100 million cases, but there is some hope. The total number of daily new infections around the world is slowly starting to decline, and with global vaccination programs ongoing, the worst of the pandemic could be behind us fairly soon. 

[H/T: ABC News]


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