Prevalence and Genetic Characteristics of Human Bocaviruses Detected in Patients with Acute Respiratory Infections in Bulgaria
Нuman bocaviruses (hBoVs) are often associated with acute respiratory infections (ARIs). Information on the distribution and molecular epidemiology of hBoVs in Bulgaria is currently limited. The objectives of this study were to investigate the prevalence and genetic characteristics of hBoVs detected in patients with ARIs in Bulgaria. From October 2016 to September 2019, nasopharyngeal/oropharyngeal swabs were prospectively collected from 1842 patients of all ages and tested for 12 common respiratory viruses using a real-time RT-PCR. Phylogenetic and amino acid analyses of the hBoV VP1/VP2 gene/protein were performed. HBoV was identified in 98 (5.3%) patients and was the 6th most prevalent virus after respiratory-syncytial virus (20.4%), influenza A(H1N1)pdm09 (11.1%), A(H3N2) (10.5%), rhinoviruses (9.9%), and adenoviruses (6.8%). Coinfections with other respiratory viruses were detected in 51% of the hBoV-positive patients. Significant differences in the prevalence of hBoVs were found during the different study periods and in patients of different age groups. The detection rate of hBoV was the highest in patients aged 0–4 years (6.9%). In this age group, hBoV was the only identified virus in 9.7%, 5.8%, and 1.1% of the children diagnosed with laryngotracheitis, bronchiolitis, and pneumonia, respectively. Among patients aged ≥5 years, hBoV was detected as a single agent in 2.2% of cases of pneumonia. Phylogenetic analysis showed that all Bulgarian hBoV strains belonged to the hBoV1 genotype. A few amino acid substitutions were identified compared to the St1 prototype strain. This first study amongst an all-age population in Bulgaria showed a significant rate of hBoV detection in some serious respiratory illnesses in early childhood, year-to-year changes in the hBoV prevalence, and low genetic variability in the circulating strains.