As Chinese authorities struggle to contain rising Covid-19 infections ahead of the Lunar New Year celebrations, Beijing has introduced anal swabs asa new type of coronavirus test that could detect the virus more accurately.
State-run channel CCTV reported that the tests are reserved for high-risk cases, although there does not appear to be a coordinated policy for them, with reports of surprise tests for some individuals..
This includes passengers arriving in Beijing, residents of quarantine centers and, according to local officials, a group of more than 1,000 schoolchildren and teachers believed to be exposed to the virus.
The test involves inserting a cotton-tipped swab about 1-2 inches into the rectum, which will then be tested for the virus.
Anal swab tests could be more accurate than nose or throat tests, said Li Tongzeng, deputy director of the respiratory and infectious diseases department at Beijing You An Hospital, in an interview with state media.
Li said studies show that the virus lasts longer in the anus or excrement than in the respiratory tract and that an anal test could be better at identifying the disease in mild or asymptomatic cases.
Forbes has reached out to China’s health agency for more details on the new test’s rollout and approached the U.S. CDC and FDA to see whether they have plans to introduce anal swab tests.