FERRERA ERBOGNONE — Though Italy's total number of COVID-19 cases has topped 100,000, one town near the epicenter in the Lombardy region has registered zero infections. Now researchers hope to see if this town, with a population of 1,200, holds clues to understanding how the virus spreads?

Ferrera Erbognone, the town that has been completely coronavirus-free, is just 70 kilometers from the first cluster in Codogno, and 52 kilometers from Milan, which has registered more than 8,000 deaths. Ferrera Erbognone is now slated to be part of study conducted by the Mondino Institute of Pavia, to test the blood of local residents to see if there is a physiological explanation for the lack of infections.

Is there something in the immune system of this small population?

The study, which is still awaiting the final "OK" from regional officials, will seek to determine if there are antibodies capable of fighting off the coronavirus that are specifically present in the population of Ferrera Erbognone.

Is there something in the immune system of this small population to explain why no one has been affected? If so, could it be a key to find clues to stopping the pandemic? Mayor Giovanni Fassina doesn't think it's genetics. "We are like everyone else. Our population has been vigilant in respecting the [quarantine] precautions."

The researchers at Mondino cautioned that they don't expect the study to provide either diagnostic nor prognostic breakthroughs, and cautioned against "generating false myths and unfounded expectations in the population."

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