Italy Discovered Coronavirus During December 2019

SARS coronavirus detected in wastewater in Italy
sewage treatment plant in swiss alps

A new study reported traces of the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus were present in the cities of Milan and Turin sewage systems as early as December 2019. 

This new research announced on June 18, 2020, may have identified the beginning stages of the coronavirus outbreak in northern Italy.

SARS-CoV-2 RNA detection was accomplished in volumes of 250 ml of wastewaters collected in areas of high (Milan) and low (Rome) epidemic circulation, according to clinical data. 

Overall, 6 out of 12 samples (50%) were found to be positive. 

One of the positive results was obtained in a Milan wastewater sample collected a few days after the first notified Italian case of autochthonous SARS-CoV-2.

'This (data) confirms the strategic function of monitoring virus samples taken in sewers and at the entrance to the treatment plants, as a tool capable of identifying and monitoring virus circulation.' comments this researcher in a press statement.

However, a separate water research study published by Science Direct says 'there is no evidence of coronavirus transmission to humans through contaminated water.'

Several studies have demonstrated the advantages of environmental surveillance through the monitoring of sewage for the assessment of viruses circulating in a given community.

During the COVID-19 public health emergency, many reports have described the presence of SARS-CoV-2 RNA in stools from COVID-19 disease patients, and a few studies reported the occurrence of SARS-CoV-2 in wastewaters worldwide.

This new information from Italy is consistent with a retrospective analysis in France and a recent Spanish study that found SARS-CoV-2 RNA in samples collected in mid-January 2020 in Barcelona.

Additionally, preliminary studies have reported the detection of SARS-CoV-2 RNA in wastewater in The Netherlands, the USA, and Australia.

Human coronaviruses (HCoV) are respiratory pathogens and their primary transmission mode is person-to-person contact through respiratory droplets generated by breathing, sneezing, coughing, and direct contact with an infected subject or indirect contact, through a hand-mediated transfer of the virus from contaminated fomites to the mouth, nose, or eyes, says the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

But, the waterborne transmission of HCoV has never been demonstrated in humans.

However, the detection of HCoV in the feces of infected patients was first reported in 2006, suggesting the fecal-oral route may contribute to HCoV transmission. 

And in 2003, the SARS-CoV outbreak was detected in the feces of infected patients in Hong Kong.

In conclusion, these researchers said ‘the evidence-based knowledge reported can be a key support for risk analysis in natural water resources, as well as for the management and control of water-related risks during the pandemic COVID-19 caused by SARS-CoV2.’

Further research is needed ‘to study the potential presence and fate of HCoV in municipal wastewater, drinking water, and to develop robust methods for water analysis.

The authors declare that they have no known competing financial interests or personal relationships that could have appeared to influence the work reported in this paper.

Coronavirus Today publishes SARS outbreak news.