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Infectious Diseases - Physiology - Public Health and Epidemiology - Respiratory Medicine - Virology

Characterization of Human Coronavirus Etiology in Chinese Adults with Acute Upper Respiratory Tract Infection by Real-Time RT-PCR Assays
Published: Friday, June 15, 2012
Author: Roujian Lu et al.

by Roujian Lu, Xiaoyan Yu, Wen Wang, Xijie Duan, Linglin Zhang, Weimin Zhou, Jin Xu, Lingjie Xu, Qin Hu, Jianxin Lu, Li Ruan, Zhong Wang, Wenjie Tan


In addition to SARS associated coronaviruses, 4 non-SARS related human coronaviruses (HCoVs) are recognized as common respiratory pathogens. The etiology and clinical impact of HCoVs in Chinese adults with acute upper respiratory tract infection (URTI) needs to be characterized systematically by molecular detection with excellent sensitivity.

Methodology/Principal Findings

In this study, we detected 4 non-SARS related HCoV species by real-time RT-PCR in 981 nasopharyngeal swabs collected from March 2009 to February 2011. All specimens were also tested for the presence of other common respiratory viruses and newly identified viruses, human metapneumovirus (hMPV) and human bocavirus (HBoV). 157 of the 981 (16.0%) nasopharyngeal swabs were positive for HCoVs. The species detected were 229E (96 cases, 9.8%), OC43 (42 cases, 4.3%), HKU1 (16 cases, 1.6%) and NL63 (11 cases, 1.1%). HCoV-229E was circulated in 21 of the 24 months of surveillance. The detection rates for both OC43 and NL63 were showed significantly year-to-year variation between 2009/10 and 2010/11, respectively (P<0.001 and P?=?0.003), and there was a higher detection frequency of HKU1 in patients aged over 60 years (P?=?0.03). 48 of 157(30.57%) HCoV positive patients were co-infected. Undifferentiated human rhinoviruses and influenza (Flu) A were the most common viruses detected (more than 35%) in HCoV co-infections. Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), human parainfluenza virus (PIV) and HBoV were detected in very low rate (less than 1%) among adult patients with URTI.


All 4 non-SARS-associated HCoVs were more frequently detected by real-time RT-PCR assay in adults with URTI in Beijing and HCoV-229E led to the most prevalent infection. Our study also suggested that all non-SARS-associated HCoVs contribute significantly to URTI in adult patients in China.