The Italian island of Giglio, located in the Tyrrhenian Sea, seems largely untouched by the Covid-19 epidemic, although mainland Italy deplores more than 35,000 deaths. Scientists are looking for an explanation.

As the wave of Covid-19 continues to sweep the world, it appears that a small Italian island is still able to resist it. And this while Italy now has more than 246,000 cases and deplores more than 35,000 deaths. Thus, no case has been identified among the 800 inhabitants of this island in the Tuscan archipelago located in the Tyrrhenian Sea. Yet the virus would have spread at lightning speed in the conditions of its narrow streets and densely populated homes where residents mingle daily, notes the Associated Press.

The island’s only doctor in 40 years, Armando Schiaffino, has raised concerns about a local epidemic.

“Whenever an ordinary childhood illness, like scarlet fever, measles or chickenpox strikes, within a few days virtually everyone is infected on Giglio,” he told the agency.

Interested in this situation, Paola Muti, researcher on breast cancer at the University of Milan where she is professor of epidemiology, decided to conduct a study to see things clearly. Especially since she had come to stay on the island in the family home, AP notes. Indeed, although the locals worked with several people affected by Covid-19, one of whom died, no one was infected.

Tests and results

Kits to test for antibodies have been sent to the island. Of the approximately 800 residents, 723 volunteered to take the test. It turned out that only one person had the antibodies, a sign of their contact with a sick person when the two men had taken the same ferry.

Also according to the agency, the researcher believes that the inhabitants of the island may not have been exposed to Covid-19 for too long to be infected.

This possibility is also raised by Massimo Andreoni, head of infectious diseases at a hospital in Rome, who believes that some patients are simply less able to spread the disease. The reasons for this phenomenon, however, are not clear.

The role of chance was highlighted by Daniel Altmann, professor of immunology in London.

“It could be something more or less trivial: no one was infected because luckily there was little contact,” he said, quoted by AP.

He believes, however, that it could be “something important and exotic”, like a genetic variant common among the population of the island.