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Researchers find coronavirus was circulating in Italy earlier than thought

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ROME (Reuters) – The new coronavirus was circulating in Italy in September 2019, a research by the National Cancer Institute (INT) of the Italian metropolis of Milan exhibits, signaling that it might need unfold past China earlier than thought.

The World Health Organization has mentioned the brand new coronavirus and COVID-19, the respiratory illness it causes, have been unknown earlier than the outbreak was reported in Wuhan, central China, late final yr. But it has mentioned “the possibility that the virus may have silently circulated elsewhere cannot be ruled out.”

The WHO mentioned on Monday it was reviewing the outcomes from Italy and extra data printed there on the weekend and was searching for clarification.

Italy’s first COVID-19 affected person was detected on Feb. 21 in a small city close to Milan, in the northern area of Lombardy.

The Italian researchers’ findings, printed by the INT’s scientific journal Tumori Journal, present 11.6% of 959 healthy volunteers enrolled in a lung most cancers screening trial between September 2019 and March 2020 had developed coronavirus antibodies effectively earlier than February.

An extra SARS-CoV-2 antibodies check was carried out by the University of Siena for a similar analysis titled “Unexpected detection of SARS-CoV-2 antibodies in the pre-pandemic period in Italy”.

It confirmed that 4 circumstances relationship again to the primary week of October have been optimistic for antibodies, which means they’d acquired contaminated in September, Giovanni Apolone, a co-author of the research, advised Reuters.

“This is the main finding: people with no symptoms not only were positive after the serological tests but also had antibodies able to kill the virus,” Apolone mentioned.

“It means that the new coronavirus can circulate among the population for a long time and with a low rate of lethality, not because it is disappearing, only to surge again,” he mentioned.

The WHO mentioned it will contact the paper’s authors “to discuss and arrange for further analyses of available samples and verification of the neutralization results”.

Italian researchers advised Reuters in March that they reported a better than ordinary variety of circumstances of extreme pneumonia and flu in Lombardy in the final quarter of 2019 in an indication that the brand new coronavirus might need circulated earlier than thought.

Reporting by Giselda Vagnoni; further reporting by Stephanie Nebehay in Geneva; Editing by Emelia Sithole-Matarise and Janet Lawrence

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