As WHO is targeted by the United-States for not having reported the beginning of the coronavirus epidemic at the right time, results of a study from the Italian National Institute of Health may put a damper on diplomatic relationships.
As a matter of fact, analyses of sewage sampled in Milan, Turin, and Bologna show the virus was already there in December 2019 in Milan and Turin, before spreading and reaching Bologna in late January. These tests ran in laboratory have been made possible thanks to the study of environmental virology in Italy proposing to analyze sewage to detect enteric viruses in the entire water network. And since Sars-CoV-2 remains in feces, it is found in sewage.
All in all, 40 samples collected from October 2019 to February 2020 in water treatment plants in Turin, Milan, and Bologna have been analyzed and compared with 24 “checking” samples collected between September 2018 and June 2019.
Results are upfront: the virus appeared in December 2019, and has been around in January and February, as the first Covid-19 case in Italy has been officially reported on February 20. At that time, many Italians were infected by pneumonia. Today, the toll is heavy in the country that reports 34,561 deaths since the epidemic broke out, and over 238,000 Covid-19 cases.