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China rolls out anal swab tests for coronavirus

Coronavirus pandemic: A group of Chinese researchers published a study in the Future Microbiology journal in August that said that some recovering patients tested positive through anal swabs but negative through throat swabs

twitter-logoBusinessToday.In | January 28, 2021 | Updated 13:21 IST
China rolls out anal swab tests for coronavirus 
COVID-19 pandemic: China rolls out anal swab tests

If there is anything scarier than contracting coronavirus, it is getting an anal swab test done to identify if one has contracted the virus. Yet, here we are. The Chinese people might have been mistaken to think that they have seen it all but they were not likely prepared for this atrocity. China will now conduct anal swab tests for those under quarantine.

Chinese state media outlets announced the new protocol, prompting discussions and outrage in equal measure. Chinese doctors have said that some recovering patients have continued to test positive through swabs from the lower digestive tract days after nasal and throat swabs showed negative results.

Nevertheless, people are not gung-ho about the government's intrusive measures. In a Weibo poll, 80 per cent of respondents said that they would not accept the invasive method, as mentioned in a report in The Washington Post. Even doctors who support the new tests say that it is an inconvenient way and should be used only for select groups, including at quarantine centers.

Li Tongzeng, an infectious-disease specialist at Beijing You'an Hospital said that anal swab testing can raise rate of identification but since it is an inconvenient method, only key groups should undergo the testing.

China tried testing the procedure in small groups last year. A group of Chinese researchers published a study in the Future Microbiology journal in August that said that some recovering patients tested positive through anal swabs but negative through throat swabs. "We propose anal swabs as the potentially optimal specimen for SARS-CoV-2 detection for evaluation of hospital discharge of covid-19 patients," they had said.

The Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention published instructions on the tests saying that stool samples should be taken from patients for testing. If that is not possible, then a cotton-tipped stick of 3-5 cm should be inserted into the rectum.

Meanwhile, some doctors have opined that throat and nasal swabs are more effective since coronavirus is a respiratory infection. Yang Zhanqiu, a pathologist at Wuhan University said that there is no evidence of coronavirus transmitting through the digestive system.

This measure comes as China gears up for the Lunar New Year next month that sees some 3 billion trips made over the holiday. It is often called the world's largest annual migration. Authorities are losing sleep over the holiday season that could set in motion millions of coronavirus cases around the country.  Meanwhile, the country is also trying to vaccinate 50 million people before the holiday. However, that only amounts to 4 per cent of their population -- way too less to prevent mass transmission.

Also read: MHA issues fresh guidelines for COVID-19 containment: Here's all you should know

Also read: Scientists identify new COVID-19 drug that's '27.5 times' more effective than remdesivir

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