In the wake of reports of an Italian study that showed that the coronavirus was circulating in Italy prior to reports of the Wuhan outbreak, China has grabbed the opportunity to shift blame for starting the pandemic to Italy, The U.S. Sun reported.
The Milan-based report, which found coronavirus antibodies in blood samples taken from healthy patients beginning in September of last year, has led to a series of news reports by official Chinese state media claiming that the study proves that China cannot be blamed for the deadly pandemic.
However, it is widely known that China was not very forthcoming about the newly-found virus, delaying an announcement of its outbreak until it was already widely spread, and the more likely scenario is simply that the virus was spread from China to Italy earlier than thought. Furthermore, China has consistently tried to deflect blame for the virus. In May, China’s ambassador to the UK Liu Xiaoming said his country was a a “victim” of the pandemic, and in July, China claimed Spain started the pandemic, saying the virus began in Europe and not China.
One of the scientists involved in the Milan study told the UK-based The Times that its findings did not contraindicate the coronavirus starting in China. “We know that China delayed announcing its outbreak,” said Giovanni Apolone of Milan’s National Cancer Institute. “So there is no telling when it started there, and China has very strong commercial links with northern Italy.”
Others cast doubt on the Milan study’s findings, saying that the evidence for the coronavirus being present in Italy last September is not solid enough.
“The evidence brought to support such an extraordinary claim is not solid enough,” said Enrico Bucci, biologist adjunct professor at Philadelphia’s Temple University, Pennsylvania, US.
“Much ado about nothing,” added Antonella Viola, professor of general pathology at the University of Padua in Italy.
Both scientists say that the antibody test used in the study was designed by the researchers involved in the study and was not validated by other researchers in a peer review.
“We need a really conclusive demonstration that those samples are picking up the COVID-19 virus and that those antibodies were not actually triggered by another virus,” said Andrew Preston, reader in microbial pathogenesis at the University of Bath.
Another aspect of the study that seems to cast doubt on the conclusions is that all the patients in the study who tested positive for the coronavirus were asymptomatic despite most being 55-65 years old and having been smokers.
“This would normally be a high-risk group for Covid-19, so it is puzzling why all patients were asymptomatic,” said Mark Pagel, professor at the School of Biological Sciences at the University of Reading.
(YWN Israel Desk – Jerusalem)