Story at a glance

  • Zangrillo said the coronavirus “clinically no longer exists.”
  • WHO epidemiologist Maria Van Kerkhove said Zangrillo’s claims were not supported by scientific data.
  • WHO Executive Director Michael Ryan on Monday warned the virus is “still a killer virus.”

The World Health Organization (WHO) and other global health experts are pushing back against a prominent Italian doctor’s claim that the coronavirus is becoming less potent. 

Professor Alberto Zangrillo, the head of intensive care at San Raffaele Hospital in Lombardy, Italy, Sunday told Italian press that a study conducted by his colleague had shown the virus was losing its potency and that the new coronavirus “clinically no longer exists.” 


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“The swabs that were performed over the last 10 days showed a viral load in quantitative terms that was absolutely infinitesimal compared to the ones carried out on patients a month or two ago,” Zangrillo told RAI television Sunday, CNBC reports. He was citing a study from Massimo Clementi, the director of the Microbiology and Virology Laboratory at the San Raffaele hospital, that’s expected to be published soon. The study compared virus samples taken from COVID-19 patients in March with samples taken in May.


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“The result was ambiguous: an extremely significant difference between the viral load of patients admitted in March compared to” those admitted in May, Zangrillo told Reuters

The comments drew widespread skepticism from health officials, including WHO epidemiologist Maria Van Kerkhove, who said Zangrillo’s claims were not supported by scientific data. 

“In terms of transmissibility, that has not changed, in terms of severity, that has not changed,” Van Kerkhove said Monday according to Reuters. 

WHO Executive Director Michael Ryan on Monday warned the virus is “still a killer virus.” 

“We need to be exceptionally careful not to create a sense that, all of a sudden, the virus, by its own volition, has now decided to be less pathogenic. That is not the case at all,” Ryan said during a news conference Monday, adding that officials need to take a detailed look at the study’s findings. 

“It may not be the case that the virus is becoming less potent, it may be the case that we are, as a community and as a globe, are successfully reducing the number, intensity and frequency of exposure to that virus, which then on the face of it, then looks weaker.”

Franco Locatelli, the head of Italy’s top health advisory body, also spoke out against Zangrillo’s claim. 

“I can only express great surprise and absolute bewilderment for the statements made by Professor Zangrillo. Just look at the number of new cases confirmed every day to have evidence of the persistent circulation of the virus in Italy,” Italian news agency ANSA reported Monday. 

Italy was the original epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak in Europe and has recorded more than 233,000 confirmed cases with more than 33,000 deaths. 


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Published on Jun 02, 2020