Epidemiological and clinical characteristics of infections with seasonal human coronavirus and respiratory syncytial virus in hospitalized children immediately before the coronavirus disease 2019 pandemic

J Infect Chemother. 2022 Jul;28(7):859-865. doi: 10.1016/j.jiac.2022.03.001. Epub 2022 Mar 15.


Introduction: Seasonal human coronavirus (HCoV)-229E, -NL63, -OC43, and -HKU1 are seasonal coronaviruses that cause colds in humans. However, the clinical characteristics of pediatric inpatients infected with HCoVs are unclear. This study aimed to compare and clarify the epidemiological and clinical features of HCoVs and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), which commonly causes severe respiratory infections in children.

Methods: Nasopharyngeal swabs were collected from all pediatric inpatients with respiratory symptoms at two secondary medical institutions in Fukushima, Japan. Eighteen respiratory viruses, including RSV and four HCoVs, were detected via reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction.

Results: Of the 1757 specimens tested, viruses were detected in 1272 specimens (72.4%), with 789 single (44.9%) and 483 multiple virus detections (27.5%). RSV was detected in 639 patients (36.4%) with no difference in clinical characteristics between RSV-A and RSV-B. HCoV was detected in 84 patients (4.7%): OC43, NL63, HKU1, and 229E in 25 (1.4%), 26 (1.5%), 23 (1.3%), and 16 patients (0.9%), respectively. Patients with HCoV monoinfection (n = 35) had a significantly shorter period from onset to hospitalization (median [interquartile range] days, 2 [1-4.5] vs. 4 [2-5]), significantly shorter hospitalization stays (4 [3-5] vs. 5 [4-6]), and more cases of upper respiratory infections (37.1% vs. 3.9%) and croup (17.1% vs. 0.3%) but less cases of lower respiratory infection (54.3% vs. 94.8%) than patients with RSV monoinfection (n = 362).

Conclusion: Seasonal HCoV-infected patients account for approximately 5% of children hospitalized for respiratory tract infections and have fewer lower respiratory infections and shorter hospital stays than RSV-infected patients.

Keywords: Children; Coronavirus; Croup; Hospitalization; Human coronavirus; Respiratory syncytial virus.

MeSH terms

  • COVID-19* / epidemiology
  • Child
  • Child, Hospitalized
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Pandemics
  • Respiratory Syncytial Virus, Human*
  • Respiratory Tract Infections* / epidemiology
  • Seasons