University of Padua Vò Study: One Possible Hypothesis of How to Contain COVID-19

Mar 19, 2020 | Coronavirus, COVID-19, Italy, University of Padua

University of Padua Vò Study One Possible Hypothesis of How to Contain COVID-19

The University of Padua, in collaboration with the Veneto Region and the Red Cross, conducted a study of how to neutralize the spread of COVID-19. What the researchers found was of great interest: the ability to contain the spread of the virus, at least in this one town.

What was the focus of this study?

The University of Padua with the help of the Veneto Region and the Red Cross established a study, starting on March 6, 2020, to test all 3,300 of the inhabitants of a small town called Vò, in northern Italy—the location of the first death due to the novel coronavirus. The researchers have established this study to natural history of the virus, the transmission dynamics and categories of risk.

Significant trend here in Vò Italy

At the start of the study, on March 6, there were 90 infected residents. Many days later, no one else has been infected with the novel coronavirus.

How did this study group accomplish this containment?

Study researcher and Imperial College London infections expert Andrea Crisanti quoted to the Financial Times that “We were able to contain the outbreak here, because we identified and eliminated the ‘submerged’ infections and isolated them.” Mr. Crisanti declared thus far “That is what makes the difference.” Professor Crisanti, according to the Financial Times coverage, is with the University of Padua on his sabbatical.

The key: Identify the ‘Asymptomatic people”

This research group identified at least six asymptomatic people who were tested in the affirmative for COVID-19. Had they not been identified, they would have undoubtedly infected others. Professor Sergio Romagnani with University of Florence reported in letters to the authorities, “The percentage of infected people, even if asymptomatic, in the population is very high.” The professor continued, saying, “The isolation of asymptomatic is essential to be able to control the spread of the virus and the severity of the disease.”

What the University of Padua test evidenced?

The mass testing here in Vò revealed approximately 3% of the residents were infected with the virus and about 50% of this population revealed no symptoms. After a strict lockdown and quarantine of cases, only 0.25% of residents were actually infected thereafter. These individuals were kept in isolation, and thereafter the town started to go back to normal.

Mass testing has taken hold in Italy

Consequently, in Italy, which has been hit hard with mass testing and quarantine procedure, it would appear that the spread of COVID-19 has been contained.

However, the counter argument that mass testing won’t necessarily work

A professor of infectious diseases at the University of Milan and director of infectious disease at the Luigi Sacco hospital in Milan outright warned that mass testing on the asymptomatic population could be proven to be “useless” as “The contagions are unfortunately constantly evolving,” telling the UK’s Guardian that “A man who tests negative today could contract the disease tomorrow.”

Lead Research/Investigator

Professor Andrea Crisanti, Imperial College London

Call to Action: Interested in learning more about this northern Italy-based study? Reach out to Professor Crisanti.  Although he is on sabbatical, he is still with Imperial College London.


  1. Christine Macchia

    Please inform me, which test was used in Veneto to determine positive cases. I am also curious of the methods used. I’m assuming swabs. Accurate scientific information is needed so that I can report thoroughly. If 50% of the 90 were asymptomatic, what other clinical findings did the cases have?

    Many thanks for your information.

    Chris Macchia, MPH

    • TrialSite

      Dear Christine,
      Thank you for reaching out to TrialSite News. It would be good to secure the details of the University of Padua study point of view. We know that a prominent figure in that study was a professor named Andrea Crisanti. Although he teaches at Imperial College London, he has been on a sabbatical and very involved with the research on the ground in that part of Northern Italy.
      He will have more granular, specific answers and if he doesn’t he will be able to point you in the direction of either researchers or local health officials that do.
      See contact info

      This Italian news media source was used by many for that 50% figure as well.
      Quoted in this article is a Professor (clinical immunologist) Sergio Romagnani, University of Florence. Professor Romagnani has been studying that Padua research and discussed some of his thoughts in that Italian article. We couldn’t find his contact at University of Florence but he does have a profile on ResearchGate that you can use to contact him. See here.

      Finally the governor of Venta, Luca Zaia pushed to have as many tests done as possible. There are reports he ordered to have all people in the area tested twice. We recommend you find a way to interview someone in his office that has more granular and specific facts and you will know more than most.

      Thanks for your good work
      Publisher, TrialSite News

  2. Max Henrion

    This article is confusing. It says 3% tested positive or 90 people of which 50% had no symptoms — i.e. about 45. It also says ” This research group identified at least six asymptomatic people who were tested in the affirmative for COVID-19. ” So was it 45 or 6? Very important.

    • TrialSite

      Apologize for any confusion. We have gone back and reviewed various sources including the Guardian in the UK and will summarize. First the hypothesis was that there needs to be mass testing done at least two times if not more. The parties involved were University of Padua, The Red Cross, and the local town officials and volunteers.

      Now first 3% refers to the fact that at the beginning they found about 3% of the town’s inhabitants were infected with the disease totaling about 45 (based on a baseline of 3,000)—this figure is derived from the number of actual tests they conducted–3,000 representing most of the town’s total population and hence the total number 90 infected. According to Wikipedia the town has 3,416 so the basis number may be a bit off.

      Now there were a couple different reports—one report referred to about 50% that were asymptomatic (e.g. no symptoms) and another said “most.” So that figure is either about 49 persons or a good deal more. So that means either 45 or substantially more.

      Now after testing and quarantines the number of asymptomatic (no symptoms) went down to 6 when they went and did the next follow on test. Hopefully this is helpful. We apologize as we are trying to work with different sources such as the Guardian and an interview in very broken English. Let us know if there is still any confusion. We are happy to get on the phone and discuss as well.


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