In a study that has not yet been published in the journal, scientists reported that the new coronavirus was present in the wastewater of Barcelona, Spain in March 2019. If this finding is confirmed, it will indicate that the pathogens have appeared longer than previously thought. Much earlier.
But independent experts reviewing the findings of the investigation said they doubted this claim. They say that this study is flawed, and other evidence strongly suggests that the virus appeared in China late last year.
To date, the earliest evidence of viruses anywhere in the world began in China in December 201
Albert Bosch, the university’s first author and professor of the University’s Department of Microbiology, said: “Barcelona is a city frequented by Chinese people in tourism and business, so this may also happen elsewhere or at the same time. “A person in Barcelona who has been studying viruses in wastewater for more than 40 years.
Several experts who did not participate in the research pointed out the problem of this new study. This new problem has not been rigorously reviewed by external experts, and the review was conducted before it was published in scientific journals. They suggest that the test is likely to produce false positives due to contamination or improper sample storage.
Irene Xagoraraki, an environmental engineer at Michigan State University, said: “I don’t believe the result.”
Researchers at the University of Barcelona posted their findings online on June 13. Most of their reports describe wastewater treatment research that began in early 2020. The surprising findings about March 2019 are only mentioned briefly at the end of the report.
When the university released a research report, the research received more attention. Friday’s press release.
For months, scientists have been trying to find clues about the origin of the new coronavirus. The earliest official report came from Wuhan, China, in December 2019.
The researchers studied mutations in coronavirus samples collected from around the world since then, and based on their findings estimated that these samples have a common ancestor at the end of 2019.
Because the virus can be distributed in feces, researchers have begun to study wastewater to detect the genes of pathogens.
In Europe, Australia and the United States, researchers discovered an increase in viral gene levels in wastewater a few days before confirmed cases began to appear. These findings have led many researchers to examine frozen wastewater samples from earlier periods and look for evidence of the virus’ existence before anyone knows to find it.
Last week, Italian researchers reported that the virus was discovered in Milan and Turin on December 18, two months before being surrounded by Covid-19 cases in northern Italy.
In addition, in April, Dr. Bosch and his colleagues in Spain began sampling waste water from two sewage treatment plants in Barcelona every week. They found viruses in these samples, prompting them to look back at the earlier samples.
The researchers discovered the virus in many samples from the pandemic to Spain a few months ago in early 2020.
Then Dr. Bosch and his colleagues went further, examining nine samples collected every few weeks or months between January 2018 and December 2019. In a single sample on March 12, 2019, their virus test results were positive.
Dr. Bosch discovered that the virus may have appeared in March, but it did not appear in recent samples.
Dr. Bosch said: “Respiratory viruses usually peak at this time of year.” “Maybe the virus then disappears.”
But Dr. Xagoraraki pointed out that the researchers used tests to search for the loci of three different genes. The only positive test is against a gene called RdRp. It is known that another test for the N gene is more sensitive. Dr. Xagoraraki said: “It should also show a signal.”
Dr. Xagoraraki said that the positive result is probably the result of contamination of other samples that were indeed infected with the virus. She also doubts whether the delicate coronavirus can survive for more than a year if the samples are not deep-frozen. She said: “If the sample is not stored at -80 degrees, you will not be able to believe the result.”
Gertjan Medema of the KWR Water Research Institute in the Netherlands said that this research comes from a “knowledgeable research team” and therefore should be taken seriously. However, he added: “They need to confirm this finding in many ways.”
Dr. Bosch said that his team will not be able to repeat the experiment in positive samples from March 2019, because it was consumed in the first test. He said: “We proved this from the sample, but we cannot repeat it.” He said, but pollution is impossible. “The way we work, when there is pollution, we will notice it.”
Another way to confirm this finding is to search for blood samples collected from patients at the Barcelona Hospital in March 2019. If the virus spreads in Spain, or even only briefly in Spain, some people are likely to be hospitalized with flu-like symptoms.
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