Epidemiology and clinical presentations of the four human coronaviruses 229E, HKU1, NL63, and OC43 detected over 3 years using a novel multiplex real-time PCR method.
Gaunt ER., Hardie A., Claas ECJ., Simmonds P., Templeton KE.
Four human coronaviruses (HCoV-229E, HCoV-HKU1, HCoV-NL63, and HCoV-OC43) are associated with a range of respiratory outcomes, including bronchiolitis and pneumonia. Their epidemiologies and clinical characteristics are poorly described and are often reliant on case reports. To address these problems, we conducted a large-scale comprehensive screening for all four coronaviruses by analysis of 11,661 diagnostic respiratory samples collected in Edinburgh, United Kingdom, over 3 years between July 2006 and June 2009 using a novel four-way multiplex real-time reverse transcription-PCR (RT-PCR) assay. Coronaviruses were detected in 0.3 to 0.85% of samples in all age groups. Generally, coronaviruses displayed marked winter seasonality between the months of December and April and were not detected in summer months, which is comparable to the pattern seen with influenza viruses. HCoV-229E was the exception; detection was confined to the winter of 2008 and was sporadic in the following year. There were additional longer-term differences in detection frequencies between seasons, with HCoV-OC43 predominant in the first and third seasons and HCoV-HKU1 dominating in the second (see Results for definitions of seasons). A total of 11 to 41% of coronaviruses detected were in samples testing positive for other respiratory viruses, although clinical presentations of coronavirus monoinfections were comparable to those of viruses which have an established role in respiratory disease, such as respiratory syncytial virus, influenza virus, and parainfluenza viruses. The novel multiplex assay for real-time pan-coronavirus detection enhances respiratory virus diagnosis, overcomes potential diagnostic problems arising through seasonal variation in coronavirus frequency, and provides novel insights into the epidemiology and clinical implications of coronaviruses.