Italy has begun retesting a retrospective sample of a new coronavirus at the request of the World Health Organization, Reuters news agency quoted several Italian researchers as revealing on Tuesday.
The new coronavirus first appeared in Wuhan, China, in December 2019, while the first patient in Italy was detected on Feb. 21 last year, in a town near Milan, the report said. However, an Italian study published last year showed that antibodies to the new coronavirus or a variant of it were detected locally in 2019. Although the Italian researchers stressed that the findings raised questions about when, not where, the virus first appeared, it prompted official Chinese media to suggest that the new coronavirus may not have originated in China.
Giovanni Apollo, scientific director of the Milan Cancer Institute, which is responsible for the tracing of the new coronavirus in Italy, said the WHO asked if they could share the biological material in question and if it could be retested in an independent laboratory. The Italian side has said yes.
A WHO spokeswoman also confirmed that the organization is in contact with the researchers who published the original paper on the test and has established cooperation with partner laboratories for further testing, and that the researchers plan to publish a follow-up report “in the near future.
WHO announced last week that its experts are preparing a proposal for the next study on the origin of the virus, but no timetable has been set. And in the face of international public pressure, there are now increasing calls for the WHO to relaunch a traceability investigation into the virus.
U.S. President Joe Biden last week ordered the intelligence community to step up its investigation and submit a report within 90 days to determine the origin of the new coronavirus, including an investigation into whether a virus leak occurred at a relevant laboratory in China.
Reuters noted that the WHO’s request to retest the Italian samples was in response to Biden’s statement, which claimed that the issue of tracing the new coronavirus was “politicized.