Human coronaviruses are uncommon in patients with gastrointestinal illness

Frank Esper, Zhen Ou, Yung T Huang
Journal of Clinical Virology 2010, 48 (2): 131-3

BACKGROUND: Coronaviruses infect numerous animal species causing a variety of illnesses including respiratory, neurologic and enteric disease. Human coronaviruses (HCoV) are mainly associated with respiratory tract disease but have been implicated in enteric disease.

OBJECTIVES: To investigate the frequency of coronaviruses in stool samples from children and adults with gastrointestinal illness by RT-PCR.

STUDY DESIGN: Clinical samples submitted for infectious diarrhea testing were collected from December 2007 through March 2008. RNA extraction and RT-PCR was performed for stools negative for Clostridium difficile using primer sets against HCoV-229E, HCoV-OC43, HCoV-NL63, and HCoV-HKU1. Clinical data from samples positive for coronaviruses were reviewed and recorded.

RESULTS: Samples from 479 patients were collected including 151 pediatric (< or = 18 years), and 328 adults (>18 years). Of these samples, 4 patients (1.3%, 2 adult; 2 pediatric) screened positive for the presence of a coronavirus. All detected coronaviruses were identified as HCoV-HKU1. No stools screened positive for either HCoV-229E, HCoV-NL63 or HCoV-OC43. All HCoV-HKU1 positive samples occurred between mid-January to mid-February. Clinical manifestations from HCoV-HKU1 positive patients included diarrhea, emesis and respiratory complaints. Three (75%) patients were admitted to the hospital with a median length of stay of 6 days.

CONCLUSIONS: Coronaviruses as a group are not commonly identified in stool samples of patients presenting with gastrointestinal illness. HCoV-HKU1 can be identified in stool samples from children and adults with gastrointestinal disease, with most individuals having respiratory findings as well. No stool samples screened positive for HCoV-NL63, HCoV-229E, or HCoV-OC43.

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