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As China sees a surge in coronavirus cases, they are adding a new form of testing to their efforts to neutralize the rapidly spreading virus. Along with the traditional oral swab testing methods and blood testing, China is now testing with anal swabs.

The new method of testing involves a saline soaked cotton swab being inserted 2-3 centimeters into the anus to be tested for active traces of COVID-19. 

There is no official statewide policy of the new testing method, but according to state-controlled media, it is being used for “high risk groups” in China. Some residents of the northern region of China have been subjected to this form of testing. 

According to a press conference in Beijing on Jan. 20, over 1,000 students and school teachers received anal, throat and nose swabs, along with a separate antibody test after an asymptomatic case was discovered on the campus. 

On Jan. 25, all passengers were forced to disembark a flight from Changchun, the capital city of Jilin province, to Beijing after officials discovered a passenger on board was from an area at high risk for transmission. The passengers were taken to a nearby hotel, where they were tested using nose and anal swabs.

One person traveling from Hong Kong to Beijing says she was told to give herself the anal swab test while she was in mandatory quarantine in a local hotel, according to Bloomberg. The individual wished to remain unnamed, but also says she received three nose tests, a throat test, a blood test, and her room was tested twice. 

Li Tongzeng, an infectious diseases specialist at Beijing You’an Hospital, told CCTV this week that adding anal testing can raise the rate of identifying infected patients. 

“But of course considering that collecting anal swabs is not as convenient as throat swabs, at the moment only key groups such as those in quarantine receive both.” Li said.

Some physicians in China said that patients recovering from COVID-19 do not have the active virus in the nose of throat areas, but the virus is still active in the lower digestive tract. Some of these patients have tested positive using the anal swab method, while the nose and throat tests came back negative.

Some doctors noted that the inconvenience of anal testing will be a problem for most patients.

While throat and nose swabs will remain the most common way of testing, Li said that the anal swab method can be more accurate in detecting asymptomatic cases.

Written ByHaley Weger

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