In a bid to fast track screening for the coronavirus ahead of the Lunar holidays next month, Chinese authorities are using samples taken from the anus to detect potential COVID-19 infections from citizens considered to be at high risk of contracting the virus.
While there’s no nationwide policy on use of the technique, residents of Beijing and some parts of the northern region of the country were localized outbreaks emerged in recent weeks have been subjected to the swabs.
The method involves the insertion of a saline-soaked cotton swab about two-to-three centimetres into the anus, with the sample then tested for active traces of the virus.
Officials took anal swabs from residents of neighbourhood’s with confirmed COVID-19 cases in Beijing last week, according to the state broadcaster CCTV, The Guardian UK reported.
The anal swabs method “can increase the detection rate of infected people” as traces of the virus linger longer in the anus than in the respiratory tract, Li Tongzeng, a senior doctor from Beijing’s Youan hospital, told CCTV, according to the report.
He argued that anal swabs could be more accurate than throat and nose tests, especially in detecting asymptomatic cases, adding they were only being used on at-risk groups, including at quarantine sites.
China managed to halt the spread of its original outbreak that started in Wuhan last year through its relentless pandemic strategy – mass testing, total lockdowns, compulsory safety measures and fumigation of entire cities.
Even though COVID-19, the potentially dangerous pneumonia-like disease caused by the coronavirus, is said to have emanated from a local Wuhan market to spread to almost 200 countries, claiming over two million lives and sickening more than 100 million in about a year, Chinese authorities have led the fight against the contagion.
But pockets of outbreaks in the country’s major cities in recent weeks are already testing the containment measures.
On Wednesday, the National Health Commission reported a total of 115 new confirmed cases on China mainland, the highest daily increase since July 30.
Hebei, the province that surrounds Beijing, accounted for 90 of the cases, while northeastern Heilongjiang province reported 16 new cases.
The total number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in mainland China now stands at 87,706, while the death toll remained unchanged at 4,634.
Meanwhile, health experts believe more research is needed to determine how effective anal swabs are since there’s no evidence that virus transmission is any more common among patients who test positive in the anus area.
Anal swabbing has not been conducted in other places that have successfully achieved near-elimination of the pathogen, like New Zealand, Bloomberg reported.
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