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Debunked: No, Italy hasn't discovered that Covid-19 is a bacterium rather than a virus

The Covid-19 disease is caused by a virus, not bacteria.


A CLAIM THAT Italy has “discovered” that Covid-19 “is not a virus, but a bacterium” has been shared widely on social media.

Italy has not made this discovery because it is untrue that the Covid-19 disease is caused by bacteria.

Covid-19 is a disease caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus, which is a type of coronavirus. 

Scientists have seen and analysed the virus and identified that Covid-19 is caused by a virus rather than bacteria. 

The claim

virus bacteria One of the posts featuring this claim.

This claim has been shared a number of times in Ireland and around the world in different posts with similar wording. This one example was shared over 1,500 times as of publication.

It reads: “Italy has allegedly discovered covid is not a virus, but a bacterium.

“It clots the blood and reduces the oxygen saturation from dispersing throughout the body.”

Bacterium is the singular word for bacteria. Bacteria are a type of tiny, single-celled organisms that can live in soil, the ocean and the human gut.

Bacteria can cause diseases such as meningitis and food poisoning.

The post goes on to make claims about Italy’s use of autopsies and a World Health Organization “law”. 

There is a lot to unpack here, so we’ll break it down piece by piece. 

Yes, Covid-19 is caused by a virus

“Italy has allegedly discovered covid is not a virus, but a bacterium.” 

Covid-19 is not a virus, it’s a disease caused by a virus. Covid-19 is the shortened term for ‘coronavirus disease 2019′.  

Virologist and assistant professor at Trinity College Dublin, Dr Kim Roberts, said that scientists have seen the virus and there is no suggestion that it is actually bacteria.

“It is a virus. We have seen it, we have sequenced it, we can isolate it and we can see it is a virus,” she told TheJournal.ie.

“The virus has been isolated from patient samples, we have looked at it under microscopes and electron microscopy.” 

Roberts added that a complication of Covid-19 can be secondary bacterial infection, which is separate to the illness caused by the virus. 

She said this can happen with respiratory infections as the damage caused by the virus “makes it easier for bacterial infections to take hold”. 

The post claims that Covid-19 “clots the blood and reduces oxygen saturation from dispersing throughout the body”.

Blood clotting has been seen among some Covid-19 patients and can contribute to death in some patients with the disease, according to a study led by the RCSI - this does not mean that it’s a bacterium, however, as the Facebook post seems to be suggesting. 

Autopsy law
“[Italy] went against the World Health Organization’s “law” that no bodies receive autopsies”

There is no World Health Organization (WHO) “law” about the bodies of people who have died with Covid-19 not receiving an autopsy.  

In fact, the WHO has offered guidance about how to perform an autopsy on someone with Covid-19 who has died to prevent spread of infection.

In Italy, the Ministry for Health published guidelines for carrying out safe autopsies on patients who had died from Covid-19.

The guidelines, which were the subject of rumour and misinformation in Italy, said that the only times when autopsies should not be conducted were in cases where the cause of death was already known, according to Italian factchecking websites Facta and Open

Conspiracy theories

Italy is also not “demanding Bill Gates and the World Health Organization be held accountable” for crimes against humanity for “misleading, misdirecting, and withholding life-saving information from the world”. 

TheJournal.ie previously debunked a false claim that Italy wanted to charge Bill Gates with crimes against humanity. Social media posts with this claim were shared widely and found to be untrue. 

The post also says that “ventilators and ICU units were never necessary” to treat patients with Covid-19. 

This is untrue. Covid-19 is a respiratory disease and can cause long-lasting damage to the lungs, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine, a large medical group in the United States.

It can cause lung complications such as pneumonia and acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS). 

“As there is no drug for Covid-19 so far, ventilation of the seriously ill is currently the only treatment option,” one leading respiratory doctor, Dr Torsten Bauer, has said

So far in Ireland, 408 patients with Covid-19 have been admitted to Intensive Care Units (ICU).

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The final claim in the post is that Covid-19 can be treated with “aspirin and coagulant”. 

It also says that a “mandated vaccine” is not necessary. 

The WHO conducted a study in April on the impact of several non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), including aspirin, in patients with Covid-19.

It found no evidence that these drugs had adverse effects or long-term survival impacts on Covid-19 patients. 

A coagulant is something that causes blood to clot and Covid-19 can lead to blood clotting in some patients, so this would not be used to treat Covid-19 based on what doctors know so far.

In terms of a future vaccine, mandated or not, several experts have said life will likely not be able to return to normal until a vaccine for Covid-19 is developed.

“A safe and effective vaccine may be the only tool that can return the world to a sense of ‘normalcy,’ saving millions of lives and countless trillions of dollars,” UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said in April.

The same day, the Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan warned that measures to suppress the spread of the virus were likely to remain in place until a vaccine became available – something that is estimated to take at least one year from now. 



There is a lot of false news and scaremongering being spread in Ireland at the moment about coronavirus. Here are some practical ways for you to assess whether the messages that you’re seeing – especially on WhatsApp – are true or not. 


Look at where it’s coming from. Is it someone you know? Do they have a source for the information (e.g. the HSE website) or are they just saying that the information comes from someone they know? A lot of the false news being spread right now is from people claiming that messages from ‘a friend’ of theirs. Have a look yourself – do a quick Google search and see if the information is being reported elsewhere. 

Secondly, get the whole story, not just a headline. A lot of these messages have got vague information (“all the doctors at this hospital are panicking”) and don’t mention specific details. This is often – but not always a sign – that it may not be accurate. 

Finally, see how you feel after reading it. A lot of these false messages are designed to make people feel panicked. They’re deliberately manipulating your feelings to make you more likely to share it. If you feel panicked after reading something, check it out and see if it really is true.

TheJournal.ie’s FactCheck is a signatory to the International Fact-Checking Network’s Code of Principles. You can read it here. For information on how FactCheck works, what the verdicts mean, and how you can take part, check out our Reader’s Guide here. You can read about the team of editors and reporters who work on the factchecks here

Have you gotten a message on WhatsApp or Facebook or Twitter about coronavirus that you’re not sure about and want us to check it out? Message or mail us and we’ll look into debunking it. WhatsApp: 085 221 4696 or Email: answers@thejournal.ie.   

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