Influence of atopy on the clinical manifestations of coronavirus infection in adult volunteers


Kathleen A. Callow, MRC Common Cold Unit, Harvard Hospital, Coombe Road, Salisbury, Wiltshire, U.K.


In an attempt to understand the relationship between viral upper respiratory tract infection and the underlying virological and immunological mechanisms, thirty-four volunteers were inoculated intranasally with coronavirus 229E; subsequent virus shedding and/or antibody rises, indicating active infection, were observed in twenty-nine. There was a greater increase in independently measured scores of clinical severity, e.g. cold symptoms, in those with detectable IgE in nasal secretions (P < 0.01). A similar association was found between clinical scores and serum IgE concentrations geqslant R: gt-or-equal, slanted 150 IU/ml, but the relationship with systemic atopy, as assessed by skin-prick tests to common allergens, was less marked. A more detailed study of twelve of the infected volunteers failed to explain these findings on the basis of mast ceil mediator release, as concentrations of leukotriene B4, the sulphidopeptide leukotriene C4, and histamine, were not appreciably elevated in the nasal secretions following virus inoculation. Similarly, there was no evidence that circulating coronavirus specific IgE was produced. Thus, this study suggests that atopy may be related to the severity of cold symptoms produced by coronavirus 229E, although the exact connection has yet to be determined.