Human Coronavirus NL63

Burtram C Fielding


Future Microbiol. 2011;6(2):153-159. 

In This Article


The detection of HCoV-NL63 in samples collected in 1981[36] and 1988[16] shows that the virus has been circulating and causing disease in the human population for a long time. However, the discovery of HCoV-NL63 and other novel HCoVs does not necessarily represent a sudden increase in emerging infections by 'new' CoVs. Of the CoVs isolated from patients in the 1960s, at least four were shown to be serologically distinct.[77–79] Unfortunately, these clinical samples were lost before they could be characterized and it will never be known whether these 'old' HCoVs and the current 'new' HCoVs represent the same strains.[80] HCoV-NL63 infections vary in frequency between years, but appear to peak during the winter months. HCoV-NL63 causes LRTIs and URTIs in 1.0–9.3% of children, the elderly and the immunocompromised, with symptoms ranging from mild to severe. Although unlikely, the high prevalence of coinfections of HCoV-NL63 and other respiratory viruses increases the chances of genetic recombination between these viruses in the host. In theory, these types of recombination events could enable highly pathogenic virus variants to arise.[81] Current data clearly show that HCoV-NL63 is clinically more important that previously suspected.


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