Rhinovirus prevalence as indicator for efficacy of measures against SARS-CoV-2

BMC Public Health. 2021 Jun 21;21(1):1178. doi: 10.1186/s12889-021-11178-w.


Background: Non-pharmaceutical measures to control the spread of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) should be carefully tuned as they can impose a heavy social and economic burden. To quantify and possibly tune the efficacy of these anti-SARS-CoV-2 measures, we have devised indicators based on the abundant historic and current prevalence data from other respiratory viruses.

Methods: We obtained incidence data of 17 respiratory viruses from hospitalized patients and outpatients collected by 37 clinics and laboratories between 2010-2020 in Germany. With a probabilistic model for Bayes inference we quantified prevalence changes of the different viruses between months in the pre-pandemic period 2010-2019 and the corresponding months in 2020, the year of the pandemic with noninvasive measures of various degrees of stringency.

Results: We discovered remarkable reductions δ in rhinovirus (RV) prevalence by about 25% (95% highest density interval (HDI) [-0.35,-0.15]) in the months after the measures against SARS-CoV-2 were introduced in Germany. In the months after the measures began to ease, RV prevalence increased to low pre-pandemic levels, e.g. in August 2020 δ=-0.14 (95% HDI [-0.28,0.12]).

Conclusions: RV prevalence is negatively correlated with the stringency of anti-SARS-CoV-2 measures with only a short time delay. This result suggests that RV prevalence could possibly be an indicator for the efficiency for these measures. As RV is ubiquitous at higher prevalence than SARS-CoV-2 or other emerging respiratory viruses, it could reflect the efficacy of noninvasive measures better than such emerging viruses themselves with their unevenly spreading clusters.

Keywords: Bayesian; COVID-19; Germany; Modeling; Rhinovirus; SARS-CoV-2.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Bayes Theorem
  • COVID-19*
  • Germany
  • Humans
  • Prevalence
  • Rhinovirus*
  • SARS-CoV-2