Residents of the Chinese capital city of Beijing are being tested for coronavirus using anal swabs, rather than the more traditional nose and throat technique that is in use around the world.
Some experts say the method is more accurate and increases the chances of detecting the virus, even in those who are asymptomatic.
However, opinion is divided, and others have suggested that the respiratory tract test is more than sufficient.
More than three million people in Beijing have been tested since January 17 after a nine-year-old boy tested positive.
It is hoped the spread of coronavirus can be restricted and slowed by testing as many people as possible to isolate those who have the virus.
In order to collect the nucleic acid samples needed for the test, a swab must be inserted into the rectum by about two or three centimetres, then rotated several times.
After completing this motion twice, the swab is taken out and placed into a sterile sample container. This takes about 10 seconds.
Anal swabs have actually been in use in China since last year, but - according to one Chinese disease control expert - it's only been in use in key groups at quarantine centres because it is so inconvenient to those who are receiving it.
According to Li Tongzeng, from the Beijing You'an Hospital, the coronavirus survives longer in excrement or the anus than it does in the throat and nasal passage.
He told CCTV (as translated by the Daily Mail): "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.
"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."
However, another scientist, Yang Zhanqui - the deputy director of pathogen biology at Wuhan University - said the throat and nose swab remains the best way to test for the virus, as it is contracted via the respiratory tract, not the digestive tract.
He told 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."
On Chinese social media platform Weibo, people have been joking about receiving the swabs. One wrote: "So lucky I returned to China earlier."
Another said: "Low harm, but extreme humiliation."
A third commented: "I've done two anal swabs, every time I did one I had to do a throat swab afterwards - I was so scared the nurse would forget to use a new swab."
Would you agree to this if it meant that this wretched pandemic could end?
Featured Image Credit: PA
Topics: Science, World News, Coronavirus, Weird, China