An Italian-led research team has found that a woman was already infected with the coronavirus back in November 2019, according to a report published in local newspaper la Repubblica on Monday.
The latest discovery could make the woman "patient zero," with her case being a month earlier than the previously known earliest case of a four-year-old boy.
The team led by University of Milan found the presence of the coronavirus from a skin biopsy of a 25-year-old Italian woman, which was among all the atypical dermatological biopsy samples from the last few months of 2019.
The woman only had symptoms of the appearance of red plaques on the skin and a mild sore throat at the time. She tested positive for COVID-19 antibody in June 2020, indicating a history of being infected with the virus.
Raffaele Gianotti, a researcher at the University of Milan, said they found that some COVID-19 cases only showed symptoms of skin diseases in the research. He added it's necessary to find out if people with the skin disease had been infected with COVID-19 before the outbreak.
It is by far the earliest COVID-19 case in Italy, according to the study. The research result was published in the British Journal of Dermatology.
The first official Italian case was recorded in late February 2020. But recent studies in Italy provided additional evidence that the virus may have been spreading far earlier than initially thought.