A new study published by the National Cancer Institute (INT) in Milan, Italy, shows that COVID-19 had been spreading in Italy long before anyone knew what the disease was or knew what was even happening. The findings of the study indicate that coronavirus may also have occurred in Wuhan, China, longer than anyone previously thought.
The pandemic was first reported in China in December 2019, and the World Health Organization (WHO) revealed that the disease was unheard of previous to its occurrence in China. In Italy, the disease was first reported in February 2020 in the northern region of Lombardy.
According to the findings published in the Tumori Journal, the INT carried out a lung cancer screening trial of 959 healthy people between September 2019 and March 2020. They found that 11.6% of these people already developed the COVID-19 antibody prior to February when the disease was first reported in Italy, Reuters reports.
Researchers from the University of Siena subsequently conducted COVID-19 antibodies tests, and ultimately found that four people had coronavirus antibodies in October – indicating that the people got infected with the disease in September but recovered from it without knowing anything.
“This is the main finding: people with no symptoms not only were positive after the serological tests but had also antibodies able to kill the virus,” said Giovanni Apolone, co-author of the study. “It means that the new coronavirus can circulate among the population for long and with a low rate of lethality not because it is disappearing but only to surge again.”
Furthermore, Italian scientists stated that an unusually high incidence of severe pneumonia and flu were reported in late 2019 in Lombardy and that this is a sure indication that a wave of coronavirus had swept through the region previously without the due knowledge or awareness of the authorities.