Human coronavirus circulation in the United States 2014-2017

J Clin Virol. 2018 Apr:101:52-56. doi: 10.1016/j.jcv.2018.01.019. Epub 2018 Jan 31.


Background: Human coronaviruses (HCoVs) -OC43, -229E, -NL63 and -HKU1 cause upper and lower respiratory tract infections. HCoVs are globally distributed and the predominant species may vary by region or year. Prior studies have shown seasonal patterns of HCoV species and annual variation in species prevalence but national circulation patterns in the US have not yet been described.

Objectives: To describe circulation patterns of HCoVs -OC43, -229E, -NL63 and -HKU1 in the US.

Study design: We reviewed real-time reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (rRT-PCR) test results for HCoV-OC43, -229E, -NL63 and -HKU1 reported to The National Respiratory and Enteric Virus Surveillance System (NREVSS) by U.S. laboratories from July 2014-June 2017. We calculated the total number of tests and percent positive by week. For a subset of HCoV positive submissions with age and sex of the patient available, we tested for differences in age and sex across the four HCoV species using Chi Square and Kruskal Wallace tests.

Results: 117 laboratories reported 854,575 HCoV tests; 2.2% were positive for HCoV-OC43, 1.0% for HCoV-NL63, 0.8% for HCoV-229E, and 0.6% for HCoV-HKU1. The percentage of positive tests peaked during December - March each year. No significant differences in sex were seen across species, although a significant difference in age distribution was noted.

Conclusions: Common HCoVs may have annual peaks of circulation in winter months in the US, and individual HCoVs may show variable circulation from year to year. Different HCoV species may be detected more frequently in different age groups. Further years of data are needed to better understand patterns of activity for HCoVs.

Keywords: Coronavirus; Epidemiology; Respiratory tract infection; Respiratory virus.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Age Factors
  • Coronavirus / classification*
  • Coronavirus / genetics
  • Coronavirus / isolation & purification*
  • Coronavirus Infections / epidemiology*
  • Coronavirus Infections / virology
  • Databases, Factual
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Prevalence
  • Real-Time Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Respiratory Tract Infections / epidemiology*
  • Respiratory Tract Infections / virology
  • Seasons
  • United States / epidemiology