COVID-19: Most Kenyans don’t welcome anal swab

COVID-19: Most Kenyans don’t welcome anal swab
5 days ago France 24 China deploys anal swabs to test for COVID-19

Testing for COVID-19 has become part of our new normal. With the PCR test, one has to have both the oral and nasal-pharyngeal swabs taken for testing. In some instances, a rapid test is also taken.

However, none has aroused more controversy and debate than the anal swabs to screen for coronaviruses.

Aome Chinese cities are using samples taken from the anus to detect potential COVID-19 infections as country steps up screening to make sure no potential carrier of the new coronavirus is missed, especially as the lunar new year is about to begin in February-a period when tens of millions of people usually travel home to their families.

Anal swabs require inserting a cotton swab three to five centimeters (1.2 to two inches) into the anus and gently rotating it to get the required swab.

According to the Chinese center for Disease Control and prevention’s instructions, a stool sample can also be taken from patients.

So, why should an anal swab be collected, yet COVID-19 is a disease that affects mainly the upper respiratory tract.

Dr. Ahmed Khalebi, a pathologist says:  “if someone has COVID-19, it can be found in the stool and in the anus, we can pick the genetic material, the whole point of testing with the anal swab is that you are able to pick the viral RNA which is there for a longer time compared to the respiratory tract where it stays for a shorter period of time.”

Could anal swabs be more accurate in detecting the virus than other tests?

According to Dr. Khalebi, it is a better way for community surveys and community assessment, the swab shows better that if you are positive, you are positive. It is for a particular community and institutions.

According to him, it may not be practical for day to day testing.”

Chinese scientists further say that such swabs could be helpful in minimizing the risk of relapse after a recovery.

More researchers say stool tests may be more effective than respiratory tests in identifying COVID-19 infections in children and infants since they carry a higher viral load in their stool than adults.

Closer home and for many Kenyans, this nature of testing has evoked a lot of shock and horror.

A Kenyan who spoke to Citizen TV said : “nilishtuka sana kuona ile ilikuwa ya mtandao, hiyo ni kuumiza utu (I was shocked to see it to the news its inhuman,”

While another one said: “Uone African man ati asimame, atoe nguo hapana, kama ya mapua inaenda sana , hii itafika wapi( An African man will strip down for the swab? We thought the nasal swab was too much, what is this?”

Yet others have  contrary opinions.

According to Ahmed Torisel, if thr doctors decide that its the correct way, then Kenyans should participate in it:  “ugonjwa, kama madaktari wanasema utapimwa sehemu nyeti hatuwezi kataa hata mwenyezi mungu anasema ugonjwa ikikuja unapambana nayo kwa njia yoyote.”

However, even in China, such samples are only necessarily for key groups such as those under quarantine.

In Kenya, the PCR test remains the gold standard for detecting active infections.

Dr. Kalebi further adds that Kenyans should not be worried about this particular test

“Anal swab is good science, but it is not practical. It is better for surveying and not day-to-day use.It is farfetched for now people should not overreact to it,” he said.

With scientists and researchers still understanding the nature of the virus and how to best detect it, one test alone may no longer be the most accurate.

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Story By Dorcas Wangira
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