China Begins Using Rectum Swabs To Detect Covid-19


China has recently reported a rise in Covid-19 cases. To curb the virus’s spread, they have rolled out a new development in the coronavirus testing technique. They have started taking anal swabs rather than nasal swabs to detect the novel virus; that has sent the world on lockdown since March of last year.


Why Are Rectum Swabs Better?

Although many think the technique to be intrusive, Chinese doctors say there is a science behind it. They claim that the virus survives longer in the digestive tracts. The scientists assert that the recovering patients have continued to test positive when they took their rectum swab samples. However, when they took the samples from nasal and throat swabs from the same patient’s samples, they came out negative.

Li Tongzeng, an Infectiologist at Beijing You’an Hospital, said in an interview on a national TV CCTV that “If we add anal swab testing, it can raise our rate of identifying infected patients.”


However, China’s health care professionals state that they have reserved anals swabs techniques for detecting critical and high-risk cases. For now, they are employing this procedure to detect cases at quarantine sites.

What is Rectum Swab Testing?

This test entails using a cotton-tipped swab that is inserted 1 to 2 inches inside the rectum of individuals. Doctors then test those swabs for the possible presence of the virus.

Chinese Authorities’ Concerns

The officials in China have introduced this new technique due to the rising concern that the new lunar year is approaching in February. During the non-pandemic years, almost 3 billion people take this holiday trip. Authorities are worried that this will increase the number of cases and take them back to step one.

Even though China strives to vaccinate 5 million people before the holiday, it is still not enough. As 5 million people make up only 4% of the Chinese population. Consequently, this will not stop the mass transmission of the coronavirus.

General Public’s Reaction

The new technique has sparked controversy. Many think that anal swab testing is a much more intrusive procedure than the commonly used nasal and throat swabs. One commenter on social media mused, “We must really try hard to avoid catching coronavirus,” while another said, “It’s difficult for the nurses.”

Also, multiple reports suggest that the authorities used this method in a group of teachers, travelers, and school children in Beijing. Despite their claims that they are only testing for high-risk cases.

As the doctors have argued about the effectiveness of rectum swab tests, others assert that the inconvenience involved in this procedure will hinder patients from getting tested.

Likewise, a pathology expert at Wuhan University, Dr. Yang Zanqiu briefed China’s Global Times that throat and nasal swabs are much more efficient in detecting the coronavirus, as it is a respiratory disease. He added, “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.”

In the face of strong criticism on the use of anal swabs, and the worries attached to it, Chinese officials say that this procedure would not be widely used. But, authorities are adamant about stifling the spread by imposing strict lockdown measures in areas where the virus’s proliferation is spotted. Also, they are making travelers from abroad to quarantine in designated hotels for 14 days. This is in addition to the one-week quarantine introduced to stay at home.

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