Did you know that you can test for COVID using your butt? That’s right. The presence of the Coronavirus can be detected rectally. In fact, China has started using this method, and dare I say it… they might be onto something. Does this sound like a bad idea? Check out the details before you make a decision because everything has pros and cons, including COVID anal testing. Here is what you need to know about rectal COVID test.

Backed by Science

Some doctors feel that anal swabs are especially effective for detecting COVID within certain groups, such as asymptomatic patients. Li Tongzeng is the deputy chief physician of the Department of Respiratory and Infectious Diseases of Beijing You’an Hospital. In an interview with CCTV, he explained how anal swabs can be beneficial.   

“We found that some asymptomatic patients tend to recover quickly. It’s possible that there will be no trace of the virus in their throat after three to five days,” Tongzeng said. “But the virus lasts longer from the samples taken from the patient’s digestive tract and excrement, compared to the ones taken from the respiratory tract. If we conduct anal swabs for nucleic acid testing, it would increase the detection rates of patients and lower the chance of a missed diagnosis.”

What rectal COVID testing looks like

The thought of anal COVID testing might conjure up all sorts of uncomfortable, dystopian images, but the process is not as invasive as it seems. The testing process begins once the patient provides a stool sample. If they are unable to do so, a cotton swab is inserted 3-5 cm into the anus. 

Who benefits from a rectal COVID test? 

For babies and toddlers, a quick rectal swab might be a lot easier to endure than a 10-second nasal swab. Given the choice between having a swab inserted deep into your nasal cavity or privately pooping in a sterile container, most adults would choose the latter. Not to mention, if testing our butts can help eliminate false negatives, then everyone will benefit. After all, knowledge is power… even when it comes from a gnarly source. 

Wastewater COVID-19 surveillance

Did you know that the government is testing sewage and has been doing so for several months? Studies are showing that if you become infected with the coronavirus, you shed viral genetic material in your stool. By testing our sewage, the government can get an idea of how much and how fast the virus is spreading within each community. However, wastewater COVID-19 surveillance has not yet become a proven method and this is because of the many variables that can affect the results. Regardless, there is some correlation between community infection rates and the amount of viral RNA within our wastewater; making it worth the taxpayer dollars.  

In the words of Canada’s current Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, “This pandemic really sucks.” For some people, anal COVID testing would make the whole situation feel a lot worse, but for others, it might make life a bit more bearable.

Does anal COVID testing seem way too invasive for you or would you prefer that to a nasal swab? Let us know in the comments!


Anal swab as a potentially optimal specimen for SARS-CoV-2 detection to evaluate hospital discharge of COVID-19 patients

Published Online:14 Aug 2020 https://doi.org/10.2217/fmb-2020-0090