A new study has found that the coronavirus may have spread outside of China far earlier than previously thought.
A study by the National Cancer Institute said the deadly virus appears to have been circulating in Milan last September — five months before Italy’s first COVID-19 patient was detected, and three months before the outbreak was reported in Wuhan, China.
Italian researchers now report that 12 percent of 959 healthy volunteers enrolled in a lung cancer screening trial between September 2019 and March 2020 developed coronavirus antibodies long before Feb. 21, when the country’s first case was identified.
Giovanni Apolone, a co-author of the study, says four cases dated back to early October 2019, which meant the healthy volunteers would have been infected in September.
“This is the main finding: people with no symptoms not only were positive after the serological tests but had also antibodies able to kill the virus,” Apolone said.
“It means that the new coronavirus