The novel coronavirus was present in Italian wastewater in December, according to Italyâ€™s public health institute.
The Istituto Superiore di SanitÃ said today it plans to publish a study showing the coronavirus was in sewage samples taken in Milan and Turin on December 18, over a month before the first documented case in Italy.
Samples from October and November of 2019 tested negative, ISS said.
The findings echo similar discoveries elsewhere in Europe suggesting the coronavirus was circulating globally well before Chinese authorities flagged the new infection on December 31. For example, a French doctor said samples from patients treated in December for pneumonia tested positive for the virus.
The ISS sent a proposal to the Italian health ministry for a nationwide network to monitor the coronavirus in wastewater, said Lucia Bonadonna, director of the department of environment and health. The aim would be to start a pilot program at tourist sites next month, with a nationwide program up and running in the â€œpotentially most critical periods of next autumn.â€