Human Coronavirus Types

Human Coronavirus Types
Updated Feb. 15, 2020

Coronaviruses are named for the crown-like spikes on their surface. There are four main sub-groupings of coronaviruses, known as alpha, beta, gamma, and delta.

Human coronaviruses were first identified in the mid-1960s. The seven coronaviruses that can infect people are:

Common human coronaviruses

  1. 229E (alpha coronavirus)
  2. NL63 (alpha coronavirus)
  3. OC43 (beta coronavirus)
  4. HKU1 (beta coronavirus)

Other human coronaviruses

  1. MERS-CoV (the beta coronavirus that causes Middle East Respiratory Syndrome, or MERS)
  2. SARS-CoV (the beta coronavirus that causes severe acute respiratory syndrome, or SARS)
  3. SARS-CoV-2 (the novel coronavirus that causes coronavirus disease 2019, or COVID-19)

People around the world commonly get infected with human coronaviruses 229E, NL63, OC43, and HKU1.

Sometimes coronaviruses that infect animals can evolve and make people sick and become a new human coronavirus. Three recent examples of this are 2019-nCoV, SARS-CoV, and MERS-CoV.