Recent endemic coronavirus infection is associated with less-severe COVID-19

J Clin Invest. 2021 Jan 4;131(1):e143380. doi: 10.1172/JCI143380.


Four different endemic coronaviruses (eCoVs) are etiologic agents for the seasonal common cold, and these eCoVs share extensive sequence homology with human SARS coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). Here, we show that individuals with, as compared with those without, a recent documented infection with eCoV were tested at greater frequency for respiratory infections but had a similar rate of SARS-CoV-2 acquisition. Importantly, the patients with a previously detected eCoV had less-severe coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) illness. Our observations suggest that preexisting immune responses against endemic human coronaviruses can mitigate disease manifestations from SARS-CoV-2 infection.

Keywords: Adaptive immunity; COVID-19; Cellular immune response.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Antibodies, Viral / blood*
  • COVID-19 / blood*
  • COVID-19 / epidemiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • SARS-CoV-2*
  • Severity of Illness Index


  • Antibodies, Viral