COVID-19 Circulated in Italy Months Earlier Than Previously Thought, Study Says

The new coronavirus had been circulating in Italy months earlier than the first detected case, according to a study by the National Cancer Institute of Milan.

The new coronavirus had been circulating in Italy months earlier than the first detected case, according to a study by the National Cancer Institute of Milan.

The study published in Tumori Journal said that the virus had circulated in Italy since September 2019, months earlier than the first identified patient on February 21.

The study analyzed blood samples of 959 asymptomatic volunteers in a lung cancer screening trial from September 2019 to March 2020 and found COVID-19 antibodies.

According to the findings, around 11% of the volunteers had developed COVID-19 antibodies before February.

The findings further showed that 14% of those identified were from September while 30% were from the second week of February.

“These results indicate that the virus circulated in Italy well before the detection of the declared index patient in February 2020. In addition, most of the first antibody-positive individuals lived in regions where the pandemic started,” the study said.

The results of the study titled “Unexpected detection of SARS-CoV-2 antibodies in the pre-pandemic period in Italy” suggests that the virus might have spread outside China “long before the first official reports from the Chinese authorities.” The first reported case in Wuhan where the outbreak started was in December.

The researchers of the study wrote that their findings “clarifies the onset and spread” of COVID-19 and “may reshape the history of pandemic.”

The World Health Organization said it was reviewing the results and would contact the authors “to discuss and arrange for further analyses of available samples and verification of the neutralization results.”


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