Virologist Ilaria Capua has just left Italy after being acquitted from the charge of illegal virus trafficking. Why do Italian people distrust Italian scientists?

Today I’m going to tell you a sad story. It’s sad even though it has an happy ending. On July 5th one of the top Italian scientists, virologist Ilaria Capua, has been acquitted after a judicial investigation longer than a decade.

(First, three books about science, politics and justice).

Galileo’s Middle Finger: Heretics, Activists, and the Search for Justice in Science

Contro la modernità.Le radici della cultura antiscientifica in Italia.

Science Left Behind: Feel-Good Fallacies and the Rise of the Anti-Scientific Left

This is the good news. What should make Italians sad is just before the end of this interminable story, Dr. Capua decided to left Italy. She resigned as president of the veterinary institute she led and from the Italian parliament to accept the role of director at the One Health Centre of Excellence for Research and Training in Florida.

Italian scientists

Ilaria Capua

What was the investigation about? The story began in 2005, after a U.S. inquiry. An Italian manager of a pharma company was suspected to have illegally shipped a virus strand to Italy. Italian investigators mainly used tap recordings of telephone calls.

Nobody knew it until 2014. Some information leaked to the magazine l’Espresso, which titled its issue “virus traffickers”. Ilaria Capua was accused of illegal trafficking of virus and even attempted epidemic.

The whole story is summarized in an article (here the English version) by the journalist Paolo Mieli, on national newspaper Corriere della Sera. One of the few artcles on this topic in Italy written before the sentence.