This special issue of the journal is dedicated to the recent progress on coronaviruses and covers the topics of viral epidemiology, virus replication and the interactions between the coronaviruses and their hosts.
We conducted a six-year epidemiological study on human coronaviruses (HCoVs) circulating in Hong Kong, using 8275 nasopharyngeal samples from patients with acute respiratory tract infections. HCoVs were detected in 77 (0.93%) of the samples by a pan-HCoV RT-PCR assay. The most frequently detected HCoV species was HCoV-OC43 (0.58%), followed by HCoV-229E (0.15%), HCoV-HKU1 (0.13%) and HCoV-NL63 (0.07%). HCoVs were detected throughout the study period (September 2008–August 2014), with the highest detection rate from September 2010 to August 2011 (22/1500, 1.47%). Different seasonal patterns of each HCoV species in Hong Kong were noted. HCoV-OC43 was predominant in the fall and winter, whereas HCoV-HKU1 showed peak activity in winter, with a few cases occurred in spring and summer. HCoV-229E mainly occurred in winter and spring, while HCoV-NL63 was predominant in summer and autumn. HCoVs most commonly infect the elderly and young children, with median age of 79.5 years (range, 22 days to 95 years). Intriguingly, the detection rate of HCoV-OC43 in the age group of > 80 years (26/2380, 1.09%) was significantly higher than that in the age group of 0–10 years (12/2529, 0.47%) (P < 0.05). These data provides new insight into the epidemiology of coronaviruses.
To date, Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) has affected over 1600 individuals in 26 countries across the globe, claiming 40% lives and thus poses a great public health challenge to the Middle East and elsewhere. Risk factors for mortality and severity among MERS patients are poorly understood. To address this, the author analysed a large dataset from Saudi Arabian Ministry of Health (MOH) in order to explore key risk factors for mortality and severity, and found that people with certain co-morbid conditions (diabetes, hypertension, renal disease, malignancy, miscellaneous conditions) were at particularly higher risk of dying or suffering severe outcome of MERS-CoV.
In this study, the authors evaluated Australian pilgrims’ knowledge and perceptions regarding the risk of MERS-CoV and camel contact at Hajj. Moreover, the authors assessed their practice regarding contact with camels during Hajj. This is the first study which has assessed the actual practice of the pilgrims’ contact with camels during Hajj. This study involved two cross-sectional surveys among Australian pilgrims aged ≥ 18 years, before and after Hajj in 2014. The first survey was conducted 1 month before Hajj among departing pilgrims. Participants were met at weekly pre-Hajj seminars run by travel agents and were invited to take part in the survey. The second survey was conducted immediately after the pilgrims’ return to Australia (post-Hajj study). Participants were recruited in selected Muslim suburbs during community gatherings in mosques or Islamic centres. In conclusion, many Australian Hajj pilgrims are not aware of MERS-CoV in Saudi Arabia, and some of them engage in activities that may put them at risk of MERS-CoV; therefore, there is a need for improved awareness among Hajj pilgrims and other travelers to the Middle East regarding MERS-CoV.