A study on serum samples of over 9,000 French adults has suggested that the novel coronavirus might have been present in the country as early as November 2019, as some sampled between that month and January 2020 tested positive for antibodies against the virus.
The research, led by Fabrice Carrat, director of the Paris-based Pierre Louis Institute of Epidemiology and Public Health, was published in the European Journal of Epidemiology on February 6, reports Xinhua news agency.
All 9,144 serum samples were collected between November 4, 2019, and March 16, 2020, from participants living in the 12 mainland French regions. Their average age is 55 and 51 per cent of them are female, said the report.
“We identified 353 participants with a positive anti-SARS-CoV-2 IgG test,” and “neutralizing antibodies were detected in 44 participants”, it said.
Strikingly, 13 participants with positive IgG and neutralising anti-bodies were sampled between November 5, 2019 and January 30, 2020, seven of whom had their serum sample collected in November 2019.
Researchers believe that this study suggests Covid-19 presence in France as early as November 2019.
On May 7, 2020, Albert Schweitzer hospital in Colmar, East France, announced in a statement that their radiologists reviewed 2,456 chest scans performed between November 1, 2019 and April 30, 2020, with results showing that the first suspected case dated back to November 16, 2019.
On May 3, 2020, Yves Cohen, head of the intensive care units of two hospitals affiliated to AP-HP, told the media that the hospitals re-examined samples taken from 24 pneumonia patients between December 2019 and January 2020.
Results showed that a man, who was admitted to hospital on December 27, 2019 and now in good health, tested positive for Covid-19.
One of the hardest-hit countries in Europe, France has so far registered a total of 3,465,951 coronavirus cases, with 80,951 deaths.