As new cases of Covid-19 reach record levels in the United States, there’s new evidence the novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 that causes the disease has been with us much longer than previously thought.


Researchers from the University of Barcelona say they detected the virus in sewage samples were collected in the Spanish city on March 12, 2019. That’s several months before the first cases that would lead to the current pandemic were officially identified in Wuhan, China in early December.

巴塞罗那大学的研究人员表示,他们在2019年3月12日收集的城市污水样本中检测到了新冠病毒。这比在12月初中国武汉正式发现首例导致当前大流行的病例早了好几个月 。

It’s previously been reported sewage samples suggested the coronavirus was present in Spain in mid-January of this year, over a month before the first case was confirmed there.


The team analyzed frozen waster water samples from nine different dates between January 2018 and December 2019. All the samples came back negative for the presence of SARS-CoV-2 genetic material, except for low levels that were found in the March 12, 2019 sample.


It’s a little odd, to say the least, that the coronavirus popped up only once in Barcelona’s wastewater nearly a year before Spain reported its first cases.


“When it’s just one result, you always want more data, more studies, more samples to confirm it and rule out a laboratory error or a methodological problem,” Dr Joan Ramon Villalbi of the Spanish Society for Public Health and Sanitary Administration told Reuters. “It’s definitely interesting, it’s suggestive.”

“当仅有一个结果时,你总是希望有更多的数据、更多的研究、更多的样本来确认它,并排除实验室错误或方法学问题,”西班牙公共卫生与卫生行政管理学会Joan Ramon Villalbi博士告诉路透社。 “这绝对很有意思,很有启发性。”

“Those infected with COVID-19 could have been diagnosed with flu in primary care by mistake, contributing to the community transmission before the public health took measures,” adds co-author Albert Bosch in a statement. Bosch is also president of the Spanish Society of Virology.

合著者阿尔伯特·博世(Albert Bosch)在一份声明中补充说:“那些感染了COVID-19的人可能会在初诊中被误诊为流感,从而导致在采取公共卫生措施之前就发生了社区传播。” 博世还是西班牙病毒学会的主席。

It’s important also to note that this research has not yet been peer reviewed, which is a key part of the scientific vetting process prior to publication in a journal. However, given the need for information on the origin and spread of the pandemic, many scientists are publicly sharing and promoting their data prior to publication, but it should still be treated as preliminary and taken with a grain of salt.

还需要注意的是,这项研究尚未经过同行评审,这是在发表期刊之前进行科学审查的关键部分。 但是,鉴于各界对大流行相关起源和传播信息的需求,许多科学家在发表之前会公开分享和推广其数据,不过仍应将其视为初步结论,并持保留态度。