Do you like having your nussy teased by COVID nasal swabs but crave something more sensual? Good news! China just deployed anal swabs as a new kind of COVID test, which could catch the virus more accurately — and you may be able to procure one someday, too.
For now, anal swabs are only being used on limited groups, primarily high-risk cases and people cramped in quarantine. If a stool sample can’t be acquired for whatever reason, the anal test requires inserting a cotton swab anywhere between one and two inches into your hole, then delicately rotating it so the COVID can’t escape.
The rationale behind anal swab COVID tests is simply that data suggests the virus lives longer in the ass than in the respiratory tract — therefore, anal tests should theoretically result in fewer false negatives. And yes, the data is indeed real: Last summer, research by Chinese scientists found that, in a few cases, anal swabs detected COVID in people who tested negative in throat and spit analysis. The researchers concluded, “We propose anal swabs as the potentially optimal specimen for SARS-CoV-2 detection for evaluation of hospital discharge of COVID-19 patients.” For what it’s worth, other studies have come to similar conclusions.
Nonetheless, anal swab COVID tests already have their skeptics. Yang Zhanqiu, a pathologist at Wuhan University, told the Global Times, “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.” Therefore, nasal and throat swabs may still be more effective, he says, because the virus is contracted through the upper respiratory tract, not the digestive system, which means a person may test positive with an anal swab even if they’re no longer contagious.
However, China has long been open to taking extreme measures to contain the coronavirus, including stringent lockdowns and mandatory testing, so it makes sense that they’re taking a “better safe than sorry” approach to anal swabs, even if they’re somewhat questionable.
Hoping for another opinion, I reached out to several doctors for comment on the efficacy of anal swab COVID tests, all of whom “respectfully declined,” and as expected, many other professionals in the field appear to be equally unsure about this type of testing. For instance, when the European Commission was asked on Thursday about including anal swabs for EU-wide COVID testing, the Commission burst into laughter, and spokesperson Stefan De Keersmaecker responded, “We will go where the science takes us. So if science takes us to the butt, we will consider this.”
In the meantime, might we recommend an anal pap smear?