Latest on coronavirus outbreak

Italian woman had COVID-19 in November 2019, study says

Research based on skin biopsies supports thesis that virus circulated in Europe in autumn 2019

Giada Zampano   | 11.01.2021
Italian woman had COVID-19 in November 2019, study says


A research by a team of scientists at the University of Milan showed that a woman in the northern Italian city was already infected with COVID-19 in November 2019.

The woman, 25, was affected by an atypical dermatitis, and a biopsy on her skin highlighted the presence of the novel coronavirus, said the study, published on Jan. 7 by the British Journal of Dermatology.

That would make her "patient zero" of the coronavirus outbreak in Italy, which has been one of the deadliest in Europe.

The first official Italian case was recorded in late February 2020. But recent studies in Italy provided additional evidence that the virus may have been spreading far earlier than initially thought, being present across Europe already in the autumn of 2019.

The latest research, coordinated by Raffaele Gianotti at the University of Milan, is based on analyses of skin biopsies performed in the autumn of 2019. Skin pathologies are observed in 5% to 10% of COVID-19 patients.

A previous study by Italian scientists had detected the novel coronavirus in a 4-year-old boy’s throat secretions, following a swab test conducted in early December 2019. The child developed cold and flu-like symptoms in November and then a measles-like rash in early December.

The first COVID-19 outbreak was reported in Wuhan, China, in December last year -- although Chinese authorities have admitted that there were cases dating back to November, raising doubt over the transparency of the official data made public.

A separate study conducted in Italy last year suggested that the coronavirus may have been circulating in the country as early as September 2019.

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