What is the role of coronavirus in the etiology of viral pneumonia?

Updated: Mar 24, 2021
  • Author: Zab Mosenifar, MD, FACP, FCCP; Chief Editor: John J Oppenheimer, MD  more...
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Coronaviruses are from the family Coronaviridae and are single-stranded RNA viruses, the surface of which is covered by crownlike projections, giving the virus its name. This virus is spread via droplet and fomite exposure. Long known to cause upper respiratory infections, coronaviruses were not felt to significantly cause pneumonia until relatively recently. However, the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) pandemic in 2003 brought the ability of this virus to cause life-threatening pneumonia to worldwide attention (see Zoonotic Viral Pneumonia, below).

Seven human coronaviruses (HCoVs) have now been identified: HCoV-229E, HCoV-OC43, HCoV-NL63, HCoV-HKU1, SARS-COV (which causes severe acute respiratory syndrome), MERS-COV (Middle East respiratory syndrome), and 2019-nCoV. All but 2019-nCoV appear to be established human pathogens with worldwide distribution, causing upper and lower respiratory tract infections, especially in children. Typically, HCoV infection follows a seasonal pattern similar to that of influenza, although Hong Kong researchers found that HCoV-NL63 infections mainly occurred in early summer and autumn. [25]

A novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) was first reported in late 2019 and early 2020 in China. [14]

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