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Italian scientists find covid-19 antibodies in pre-pandemic blood samples

Samples are from an October 2019 lung cancer study

Rechecking those blood samples they found antibodies related to covid-19

They believe that the virus was circulating in Italy before the pandemic but that it could have been less aggressive

Italian scientists had examined about thousand volunteers, 959 people, looking for lung cancer before the pandemic. Blood samples were taken from them in October 2019, before we knew of the virus. Last year they retested those same samples for coronavirus-related antibodies. And they found them in some of them.

The World Health Organization (WHO) asked to review them and those samples were retested by the VisMederi laboratory in Siena, Italy, and at a facility at Erasmus University in the Netherlands, affiliated with the WHO.

A version of covid-19 circulated in Italy before the pandemic

The two labs found that three samples from the new tests had positive readings for the IgM antibody linked to COVID-19, according to the Financial Times (FT). The first was collected on October 10, 2019. Another sample collected on February 5, 2020 was also positive for so-called neutralizing antibodies.

All four volunteers were asymptomatic. “The results of this new test suggest that it is a plausible sign of the early circulation of the virus in Italy,” Giovanni Apolone, one of the researchers, told FT.

“If this is confirmed, this would explain the explosion of symptomatic cases observed in Italy. SARS-CoV-2, or an earlier version, circulated silently, under the surface “, assures.

However, researchers from the Netherlands-based laboratory said that none of the samples contained “sufficiently high levels of each of the three types of antibodies“: IgM, neutralizing antibodies, and a third antibody known as IgG, which Erasmus requires to be considered a test of infection.

The virus may have been “less aggressive or contagious” in the pre-pandemic period, the researchers say, adding that this made “necessary the use of highly sensitive tests despite the risk of finding cases of ‘false positives’.”

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