After so many deaths and infection cases, the novel Coronavirus origin is still a mystery. The world still doesn't know how it became a global killer and exactly when it emerged. Eight months after the COVID-19 was declared as a pandemic, a new study claimed that the pathogen may have been present in Italy earlier than we know.

As per the study, which was released on Sunday, November 15 by the National Cancer Institute (INT) in Milan, the Coronavirus may have been present in the European country, three months before it was first reported in China's Wuhan in December 2019. It said the pathogen may have been circulating in Italy since September 2019 and five months before Italy's first COVID-19 patient was detected.

New Findings

Healthcare
Coronavirus' existence in Italy Wikimedia commons

The research showed that almost 12 percent of the 959 healthy volunteers who participated in a lung cancer screening trial that took place between September 2019 to March 2020 had developed COVID-19 antibodies before February 21, 2020, when the first case of the country was reported.

According to Giovanni Apolone, a co-author of the study, four cases dated back to early October 2019, which meant that the healthy volunteers would have been infected by the virus in September. He noted that "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".

The findings suggest that the novel 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", he added. As per the study, the finding of "SARS-CoV-2 antibodies in asymptomatic people before the COVID-19 outbreak in Italy may reshape the history of a pandemic".

In March, Italian researchers told Reuters that they reported a higher than a usual number of cases of severe pneumonia and flu in Lombardy in the last quarter of 2019, indicating that the SARS-CoV-2 might have circulated earlier than previously thought.

However, recently the health ministry of the country said, restrictions aimed at slowing a surge in infection cases will be extended in many Italian regions, with Tuscany and Campania set to be designated as high-risk "red zones". As of Monday, November 16, Italy reported more than 45,000 COVID-19 related deaths and over 1,178,000 cases.

Origin Mystery of COVID-19

Novel Coronavirus
Novel Coronavirus origin mystery Pixabay

When it comes to the origin mystery, many believe that if the World Health Organization (WHO) had conducted a proper investigation, Coronavirus emergence would not be a secret for such a long time. Earlier this year, a team from WHO went to China to carry out an investigation into the origin of the coronavirus but no concrete evidence was found.

Recently, another investigation to untangle the origin mystery has started on Friday, October 30, though it remained a virtual one. The investigation is expected to include both medical and animal healthcare experts who are affiliated with the Geneva-based health agency, as well as the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN and the World Organisation for Animal Health, along with specialists from other countries.

David A. Relman, a Stanford University microbiologist, wrote in a paper that preventing the next pandemic "depends on understanding the origins of this one".