Virus found in sewage in Italy strong evidence of earlier existence of novel coronavirus: Zhong Nanshan

Source: Global Times Published: 2020/7/9 10:36:25

Electron microscopic images of the first strain of the novel coronavirus released by the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention on Jan. 24, 2020 (Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention/Xinhua)

The presence of novel coronavirus in sewage in Italy and other European countries provides very strong evidence that the virus existed long before it was even noticed, a renowned Chinese respiratory disease expert said, as the World Health Organization sends experts to China to trace the origin of the virus.

The novel coronavirus has long existed but was somehow not noticed by humans, Zhong Nanshan, a top respiratory disease expert, said at a China-Qatar video conference on sharing experience of the epidemic on Wednesday. Wuhan was the worst hit city in early stages of the epidemic, but that does not necessarily mean that was where the novel coronavirus originated, he added.

WHO experts will travel to China to identify the zoonotic source of the novel coronavirus, which the Chinese government has agreed to. 

Origin-tracing is a scientific issue that should be studied by scientists through international research and cooperation across the globe. It is also the view of the WHO that it is an ongoing process probably concerning many countries and localities, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said on Wednesday at the daily briefing. 

The WHO will conduct similar trips to other countries and regions as required, Zhao said. 

Waste water samples collected from Milan and Turin in December 2019 showed the presence of the novel coronavirus, which made it clear to scientists that novel coronavirus had existed long before China first reported infection cases. 

China reported its first COVID-19 case on December 31, 2019, and Europe reported its first case in France in late January 2020.

Researchers in Spain also found the presence of the virus in samples of wastewater in Barcelona in March 2019, and infections were present before knowing of any case of COVID-19 in any part of the world. 

Researchers also found signs of the virus in the Netherlands, France, Australia and elsewhere through sampling waste water, according to a Reuters report. 

Global Times 

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