American diplomats in China were allegedly subject to anal swab testing for COVID-19, according to a Vice report on Thursday, citing a source from the US State Department.
The department complained that the practice was ‘undignified,’ with a spokesperson saying they “never agreed to this kind of testing” and had protested to China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, as cited by Vice. The tests were given in error, it was reported, and Beijing would stop anal swabs on US diplomats.
Zhao Lijian, China’s foreign ministry spokesperson, said he was unaware that Beijing had subjected US diplomats in the PRC to such tests. “I checked this with my colleagues. As far as I know, China has never asked U.S. diplomats stationed in China to do anal swab tests,” said Zhao at a press conference on Thursday.
Anal swab testing was popularized in January after a nine-year-old student tested positive in Beijing. Anal swabs have since been used in some cases, although health experts have noted that this form of testing is inconvenient (and possibly uncomfortable, we might add) compared to throat swabs. The process involves the insertion of a cotton swab 3 to 5 centimeters into the anus and a gentle rotation.
Chinese studies have shown that stool tests may be more effective than respiratory tests in identifying SARS-CoV-2.
According to a study published by the Guangzhou Medical University, it concluded that “Detectable SARS-CoV-2 RNA in the digestive tract was a potential warning indicator of severe disease.”
It’s somehow fitting that a Guangdong hospital would draw this conclusion given the province’s notable ‘assidents’ over the years.
Some travelers returning from abroad have had anal swabs while quarantining in China, with one person telling Vice “it felt like he was having diarrhea.”
[Cover image via NIAID-RML]