Rome: The novel coronavirus might have been circulating in Italy since September 2019, three months before it first emerged in China, according to a study.
If true, it would mean that the virus was present in Italy three months before it was first reported in China’s Wuhan in December 2019, and five months before the first official case was recorded in Italy on February 21, 2020, reports Xinhua news agency.
The study by the Milan-based National Cancer Institute (INT) which was released on Sunday showed that 11.6 per cent of the 959 healthy volunteers who participated in a lung cancer screening trial between September 2019 to March 2020 had developed Covid-19 antibodies well before February.
Giovanni Apolone, a co-author of the study, said that four cases from the study dated to the first week in October last year, which means those people had been infected in September.
The northern region of Lombardy, whose capital is Milan where the pandemic first emerged in late February, had previously reported an unusually high number of cases of severe flu and pneumonia in the last quarter of 2019 in a sign that Covid-19 may have circulated earlier than previously thought.
As of Monday, Italy’s overall coronavirus caseload and death toll stood at 1,178,529 and 45,229, respectively.