China is making use of anal swabs to test people for the novel coronavirus infection amid a fresh outbreak in the country, Newsweek reported citing a Chinese disease professional.
The report has it that over a million Beijing residents have so far been administered the delicate swab, with the capital setting itself an ambitious goal of eventually testing this way or another all of its 21.5 million residents.
Anal swabs were first put into practice last year, including in the transportation hub of Shanghai, but the method is largely reserved for residents in potential COVID-19 hotspots, according to an infectious disease expert quoted by China's state broadcaster CCTV on Saturday.
"Since the start of the coronavirus outbreak, we've tested for the virus using mainly throat swabs. Its characteristics are convenience and speed, so it's suitable for large-scale testing", said Beijing You'an Hospital's Li Tongzeng.
"Nasal swabs are more accurate than throat swabs, but nasal swabs can be uncomfortable".
He went on note that in some asymptomatic cases or in individuals showing mild symptoms, the odds are high that the virus will not be observed in the throat or nose,"after three to five days".
The expert shared their recent discovery that in some infected patients "the coronavirus survives for a longer period of time in their digestive tract or excrement than in their respiratory tract", commenting on why anal swabs could come in handy.
Li said rectal swabs boost the percentage of detected cases and drastically diminish the chances of missing the right diagnosis.
"Of course, anal swabs aren't as convenient as throat swabs, so they're only being used on individuals in key quarantine areas. This will reduce the return of false positives", he added.
The guidelines published by China's National Health Commission stipulate that anal swabs are to be administered 3 to 5 centimetres inside the rectum, before being rotated and removed to be further put for storage inside a sample container.
China clocked 82 new cases of community infection and 56 asymptomatic cases on 26 January, the national health authorities said, as the country has been battling the second wave of the pandemic since mid-December.
The majority of the positive cases were registered in the northeast of the country, where tens of millions of residents remain in some form of lockdown, namely in the provinces of Hebei, Jilin, and Heilongjiang.