Outbreaks of human coronavirus in a paediatric and neonatal intensive care unit
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- Gagneur, A., Vallet, S., Talbot, P.J. et al. Eur J Pediatr (2008) 167: 1427. doi:10.1007/s00431-008-0687-0
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Human coronavirus 229E (HCoV) has been recently recognized as a potential agent of nosocomial viral respiratory infections (NRVI) in high-risk infants. We have confirmed this as fact through the study of a 1-year period of HCoV outbreaks occurring during a prospective survey of NRVI in a paediatric and neonatal intensive care unit (PNICU) using new molecular techniques for HCoV detection. Nasal samples obtained at admission and weekly thereafter for all hospitalised children, as well as monthly nasal samples from staff, were analysed using immunofluorescence for respiratory syncitial virus (RSV), influenza viruses A and B, paramyxoviruses 1, 2, 3 and adenoviruses. RT-PCR was used for HCoV detection. During the year 1998, 43 HCoV-related NRVI were detected in 152 neonates (incidence 28.3%), and 7 HCoV-related NRVI were found in 92 children (incidence 7.6%). Three HCoV-related outbreaks were observed (February, August and December), associated with a high prevalence of HCoV infection in the staff. During the August outbreak, 50% to 78% of hospitalised neonates and children were infected. Seventy-five percent of hospitalised preterm neonates with a gestational age less than 32 weeks and 52.4% of staff members were infected. Risk factors for NRVI in neonates were birth weight, gestational age, ventilation, oxygenation and hospitalisation length. Ninety-two percent of infected preterm neonates were symptomatic, mainly with bradycardia and respiratory worsening. These data provide additional evidence for a possibly significant role of HCoV in NRVI in a PNICU. The role of staff or hospitalised children in spreading HCoV is hypothesised.