China claims alternate test for the virus is more accurate: anal swabs

Is there a Department of Public Humiliation in China? Not as far as I know but this seems like the kind of thing such a department would come up with if it existed. China is reportedly using anal swabs to test people for the coronavirus. Last week Chinese state media quoted some doctors claiming it was more accurate in some cases:

Li Tongzeng, a deputy director in charge of infectious disease at Beijing You’an Hospital, said that studies have shown that the coronavirus survives longer in the anus or excrement than those taken from upper body tracts, and for some silent carriers the virus may be present in their throats for 3 to 5 days, allowing some tests to provide false negative results.

Taking an anal swab could increase accuracy in key groups, Li noted during an interview with the China Central Television. However, given that the method is not as convenient as throat swabs, it will only be applied to key groups at quarantine centers.

Not as convenient. That’s one way to put it. The Washington Post reports this is all based on testing conducted last year:

China tried the testing procedure in small groups last year, with the results circulated in research journals. A group of Chinese researchers published a study in the Future Microbiology journal in August reporting that for some recovering coronavirus patients, anal swab samples still tested positive after they had tested negative through throat swabs.

Note that the people being given the swabs of their caboose are also getting throat swabs. The coronavirus spreads primarily through the air from people who breath, talk, sneeze or cough. Testing the throat makes perfect sense. It’s also why the major prevention efforts are masks and social distancing. So if a throat swab shows you are negative isn’t swabbing people’s rear ends unnecessary at that point. Are we really worried about a silent but deadly transmission of the virus?

A biologist from Wuhan University told the Global Times there’s no evidence of that, “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.”

Of course the personal humiliation of individuals is of little concern in China. Today the Global Times published a follow up in which people who’ve been through it described the procedure:

An internet user on Xiaohongshu, a social media platform, said that she had a “mental meltdown” when she was informed she had to take anal swabs along with other methods including nasal swabs, throat swabs, blood draws, and saliva tests, after she returned from overseas and was quarantined for 28 days.

Another said, “When you bend over with your pants off, and medical staff poke your anus repeatedly, all you can feel is a sense of shame, but other than that, it was not that uncomfortable.”

The Post noted a few other responses from Chinese social media:

“It’s difficult for the nurses,” said one person on Weibo.

“We must really try hard to avoid catching coronavirus!!” said another.

When you’re at the mercy of the CCP, a sense of humor is your only defense.