Exploring the possible phenomenon of viral interference between the novel coronavirus and common respiratory viruses

Spencer Deleveaux, Advocate Aurora Health
Alexandria Clarke Kregor, Advocate Aurora Health
Xavier Fonseca-Fuentes, Advocate Aurora Health
Essam Mekhaiel, Advocate Aurora Health

Advocate Christ Medical Center


At the peak of the 2021 wave of the SARS-CoV-2 alpha variant in North America, there was concern for a superimposed wave of viral respiratory infections. There was, however, an apparent shift in the usual epidemiology of these pathogens, especially during the traditional influenza season from approximately October 2020 to March 2021. This article seeks to briefly describe the epidemiology of notable respiratory pathogens during the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic and to focus on one possible factor for the trends observed. There are many contributory elements to the observed viral trends, but in particular, we present a synopsis of the data supporting the phenomenon of viral interference in relation to the clinically relevant early variants of SARS-CoV-2 (ancestral lineage, alpha, delta, omicron). Viral interference has been implicated in previous pandemics and is currently not well characterized in the setting of the COVID-19 pandemic. It is important to understand this dynamic and its effect on the predominant variants of COVID-19 thus far so that we may appropriately consider its possible influence in patient pathology going forward.