A Longitudinal Study of the Epidemiology of Seasonal Coronaviruses in an African Birth Cohort

Mark P Nicol, Rae MacGinty, Lesley Workman, Jacob A M Stadler, Landon Myer, Veronica Allen, Lemese Ah Tow Edries, Heather J Zar

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1 Citation (Web of Science)


BACKGROUND: Since non-epidemic, seasonal human coronaviruses (sHCoV) commonly infect children, an improved understanding of the epidemiology of these infections may offer insights into the context of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS)-CoV-2. We investigated the epidemiology of sHCoV infection during the first year of life, including risk factors and association with lower respiratory tract infection (LRTI).

METHODS: We conducted a nested case-control study of infants enrolled in a birth cohort near Cape Town, South Africa, from 2012 to 2015. LRTI surveillance was implemented, and nasopharyngeal swabs were collected fortnightly over infancy. Quantitative PCR detected respiratory pathogens, including coronaviruses-229E, -NL63, -OC43, and -HKU1. Swabs were tested from infants at the time of LRTI and from the 90 days prior as well as from age-matched control infants from the cohort over the equivalent period.

RESULTS: In total, 885 infants were included, among whom 464 LRTI events occurred. Of the 4751 samples tested for sHCoV, 9% tested positive, with HCoV-NL63 the most common. Seasonal HCoV detection was associated with LRTI; this association was strongest for coronavirus-OC43, which was also found in all sHCoV-associated hospitalizations. Birth in winter was associated with sHCoV-LRTI, but there were no clear seasonal differences in detection. Co-detection of Streptococcus pneumoniae was weakly associated with sHCoV-LRTI (odds ratio: 1.8; 95% confidence interval: 0.9-3.6); detection of other respiratory viruses or bacteria was not associated with sHCoV status.

CONCLUSIONS: Seasonal HCoV infections were common and associated with LRTI, particularly sHCoV-OC43, which is most closely related to the SARS group of coronaviruses. Interactions of coronaviruses with bacteria in the pathogenesis of LRTI require further study.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of the Pediatric Infectious Diseases Society
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 2 Feb 2021


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