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Coronavirus genome found in Spain wastewater samples from March 2019, scientists reveal

'Barcelona is a city that is frequented by Chinese people...'

Jane Barlow - WPA Pool/Getty Images

Spanish scientists have found traces of the coronavirus in water sewage samples dating back to March 2019, suggesting the novel virus that triggered the current pandemic emerged from China much earlier than the Chinese Community Party previously admitted.

According to Reuters, the University of Barcelona revealed Friday that scientists discovered parts of the COVID-19 genome in wastewater samples collected in Barcelona in March 2019.

After the COVID-19 outbreak reached Europe, scientists at the university began conducting research on wastewater to possibly identify new outbreaks. They also decided to test old water samples, those collected between January 2018 and December 2019. Only a sample from March 2019 tested positive for COVID-19.

"The levels of SARS-CoV-2 were low but were positive," research leader Albert Bosch said, Reuters reported.

In an interview with the New York Times, Bosch explained, "Barcelona is a city that is frequented by Chinese people, in tourism and business, so probably this happened also elsewhere, and probably at the same time."

Regarding the virus being found in a single sample from March 2019, Bosch said that it makes sense because "respiratory viruses usually have peaks around this time of the year."

Dr. Joan Ramon Villalbi of the Spanish Society for Public Health and Sanitary Administration told Reuters the research is "definitely interesting, it's suggestive."

Italian scientists have also said they found COVID-19 genetic material present in sewage months before the virus turned northern Italy into the global COVID-19 hotspot.

China claims they only became aware of the virus in late December 2019.

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