A recent study conducted by Italy's National Institute of Health
raises a lot of questions. Researchers, testing 40 water samples collected from sewage treatment plants in northern Italian cities of Milan and Turin from October 2019 to February 2020, found coronavirus presence that dated as early as December 2019. The first cases of local spread in Italy were reported only in February. There are a lot of implications. First, coronavirus genome
discovery in sewage has been reported in countries like France, Japan, Australia and Netherlands. Researchers have proposed using the system to monitor the presence of the new coronavirus in water systems in a bid to help identify any possible new outbreaks. Second and most importantly, this could be evidence, consistent with other findings, that COVID-19 may have been circulating before China reported the first cases on December 31. Reuters quoted Noel McCarthy, an expert in population evidence and technologies at Britain’s Warwick Medical School, said the detection of SARS-Cov-2 genetic material in Italian wastewater was “reliable evidence of cases of COVID-19 being present there at that time”. However, Rowland Kao, an epidemiology
and data professor at Scotland’s Edinburgh University, told the agency that this finding does not, on its own, tell us if “that early detection was the source of the epidemic in Italy, or if that was due to a later introduction into the country”. That is, the local coronavirus transmission could have commenced from other, later sources. But, there is no doubt that the coronavirus existed in Italy much earlier than the first reported cases.
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