An Unusual Resurgence of Human Metapneumovirus in Western Australia Following the Reduction of Non-Pharmaceutical Interventions to Prevent SARS-CoV-2 Transmission

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Abstract

Non-pharmaceutical interventions (NPIs) to reduce SARS-CoV-2 transmission disrupted respiratory virus seasonality. We examined the unusual return of human metapneumovirus (hMPV) in Western Australia following a period of absence in 2020. We analysed hMPV laboratory testing data from 1 January 2017 to 31 December 2021. Whole-genome sequencing of selected hMPV-positive samples was performed using a tiled-amplicon approach. Following an absence in spring 2020, an unusual hMPV surge was observed during the wet summer season in the tropical Northern region in late 2020. Following a six-month delay, an intense winter season occurred in the subtropical/temperate Southern and Metropolitan regions. Compared to 2017-2019, hMPV incidence in 2021 increased by 3-fold, with a greater than 4-fold increase in children aged 1-4 years. There was a collapse in hMPV diversity in 2020, with the emergence of a single subtype. NPIs contributed to an absent 2020 season and a clonal hMPV resurgence. The summer surge and delayed winter season suggest that prevailing temperature and humidity are keys determinant of hMPV transmission. The increased incidence in 2021 was linked to an expanded cohort of hMPV-naïve 1-4-year-old children and waning population immunity. Further intense and unusual respiratory virus seasons are expected as COVID-19 associated NPIs are removed.

Original languageEnglish
Article number2135
Number of pages14
JournalViruses
Volume14
Issue number10
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2022

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