Italian cancer researchers unexpectedly discovered signs that SARS-CoV-2 was circulating in Italy months before the first patient was identified there in January 2020, The Independent reports.
In a lung cancer screening trial with ~1,000 participants, all asymptomatic, ~11% had SARS-CoV-2 antibodies. Of those, 14% had antibodes dating back to September 2019, according to the research published in Tumori Journal.
The Fondazione IRCCS Istituto Nazionale dei Tumori scientists say their finding clarifies “the onset and spread” of the COVID-19 pandemic,”—a development that could “reshape the history of pandemic.”
It could signal that the virus might have spread beyond China earlier than thought, Reuters suggests.
But some Chinese sources had a different take: That perhaps the virus did not originate in Wuhan. “More and more scientific evidence shows #Wuhan only sounded the #COVID19 early alarm, tweeted the Chinese Embassy in Sri Lanka.
The WHO announced plans to work with the Italian authors to conduct further analysis on the samples.