“I don’t see any purpose, but I think they are not independent of each other,” says Rambaut. “Because once the idea is caught, people will go through their stored samples to see what they can find.”
Other studies reporting early detection of the virus in Italy have similar shortcomings. A study published in August 2020 by Rome’s Department of Environment and Health reported the discovery of SARS-Cavi-2 RNA in sewer samples taken on December 18, 2019 in the cities of Milan and Turin. These findings cast doubt on Johns Hopkins University postdock Alex Krits-Christoph, who specializes in bioinformatics studies of genetic data. The researchers performed three different tests, but only one came back positive. They also developed their own primers, which are used to target specific areas of RNA, despite being the standardized primers for SARS-Covy-2 used worldwide at the time. “That sounds a little weird to me,” he says.
On October 28, 2020, a study was submitted to the Journal Tumori And the very next day it was accepted, “which is indicative of a very early peer review – maybe not even a peer review,” says Worobi. The researchers looked at the antibodies of volunteers registered in a lung cancer screening trial, recruited from all Italian regions, and found that more than a hundred participants had developed coronavirus antibodies by September 2019. “Our results show that Sars-CoV-2 was distributed before the first official Covid-19 cases were diagnosed in Lombardy, Italy, long before the first official reports from the Chinese authorities, shed new light on the onset and spread of the Covid-19 epidemic.” The authors wrote. They theorized in the interview that they might have found a “less contagious” strain that could have spread without a major outbreak. The paper was widely covered by the English-speaking media. Measures needed to prevent the detection of other coronavirus antibodies, such as the common cold. Groups of individuals, in a much less comprehensive situation, are proving to be mostly positive and false, “says Marion Kupmans, a virologist at Erasmus Medical Center, who was part of a WHO team that traveled to Wuhan to investigate the onset of the coronavirus epidemic. Was released, but was never modified, and the WHO requested that the samples be re-tested in another lab.
In another study, a 25-year-old woman living in Milan underwent a skin biopsy on November 10, when she arrived at the hospital suffering from a rash. After months of close observation, Raphael Giannotti, the chief researcher and dermatologist who treated her, found evidence of the SARS-Covy-2 molecule in her skin sample. The WHO wanted to investigate the case, but no female patient could be found, and Gianotti died in March. (The rest of the authors on paper say there is no update on the case.)
Rambout says these findings are being used by various parties to support a set of specific stories. In particular, they have been frequently covered by China’s state media, and studies suggest that China is not the country of origin for the virus. “Wuhan was where the coronavirus was first discovered, but not where it originated,” Zheng Guang, former chief epidemiologist at the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, told an academic conference in November 2020.