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Italy could have had COVID-19 patient zero in Nov 2019, study says

chinadaily.com.cn | Updated: 2021-02-13 20:45

Nurse Elena Betti reacts after receiving the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine against the coronavirus disease at the Careggi hospital in Florence, Italy, on Dec 27, 2020. [Photo/Agencies]

Italy can trace its earliest COVID-19 infection case back to last November, an international research team claimed in their latest findings.

In a paper published in the British Journal of Dermatology, researchers claimed a serological test of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, was positive for an Italian patient who reported dermatosis disease in November 2019 and recovered in April 2020.

The patient, a 25-year-old woman from Milan, showed urticarial plaque-like dermatosis on her arms but only complained about a mild sore throat as a COVID-19-similar symptom.

The research team, led by R. Gianotti from the Dermatology Department of Pathophysiology and Transplantation at the University of Milan, said they analyzed skin biopsies of patients from Milan with dermatoses and positive PCR swabs for SARS‐CoV‐2 at different stages of the infection.

The results were compared to skin biopsies of 20 COVID‐19 non‐diagnosed patients with dermatoses, who were at high risk of COVID‐19 infection.

They were considered at high risk because either they presented mild COVID-19 symptoms or had been in close contact with SARS-CoV-2 positive individuals.

Histopathological features and patterns showed no differences between these
two groups.

Furthermore, 70 percent of skin samples from the "high-risk" group were positive for SARS-CoV-2 nucleocapsid antigens.

"All these facts lead to us believe that our patient could represent the oldest case in literature of detection of the virus on a tissue sample. Can we then call it the dermatological Italian patient zero?" the researchers wrote in the paper.

R.Gianotti receives an interview with China Central Television in a news program. [Photo/Screenshot]

Gianotti also said in an interview with China Central Television that the SARS-CoV-2 virus can infect different human organs, cementing the research team's speculation that they have found Italy's patient zero.

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