Robert Dyrdak, Emma B. Hodcroft, Martina Wahlund, Richard A. Neher and Jan Albert
Journal of Clinical Virology, vol. 136, 104754, 2021
Objectives The four seasonal coronaviruses 229E, NL63, OC43, and HKU1 are frequent causes of respiratory infections and show annual and seasonal variation. Increased understanding about these patterns could be informative about the epidemiology of SARS-CoV-2. Methods Results from PCR diagnostics for the seasonal coronaviruses, and other respiratory viruses, were obtained for 55,190 clinical samples analyzed at the Karolinska University Hospital, Stockholm, Sweden, between 14 September 2009 and 2 April 2020. Results Seasonal coronaviruses were detected in 2130 samples (3.9 \%) and constituted 8.1 \% of all virus detections. OC43 was most commonly detected (28.4 \% of detections), followed by NL63 (24.0 \%), HKU1 (17.6 \%), and 229E (15.3 \%). The overall fraction of positive samples was similar between seasons, but at species level there were distinct biennial alternating peak seasons for the Alphacoronaviruses, 229E and NL63, and the Betacoronaviruses, OC43 and HKU1, respectively. The Betacoronaviruses peaked earlier in the winter season (Dec-Jan) than the Alphacoronaviruses (Feb-Mar). Coronaviruses were detected across all ages, but diagnostics were more frequently requested for paediatric patients than adults and the elderly. OC43 and 229E incidence was relatively constant across age strata, while that of NL63 and HKU1 decreased with age. Conclusions Both the Alphacoronaviruses and Betacoronaviruses showed alternating biennial winter incidence peaks, which suggests some type of immune mediated interaction. Symptomatic reinfections in adults and the elderly appear relatively common. Both findings may be of relevance for the epidemiology of SARS-CoV-2.