Context.—The purpose of this review is to compare three coronavirus diseases: severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS), and coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) caused by SARS-CoV, MERS-CoV, and SARS-CoV-2 viruses, respectively.
Objective.—To cover the following topics: clinical considerations, viral characteristics, pathology, immune response, pathogenesis, and the prognosis associated with each coronavirus human disease in humans.
Data Sources.—Clinically, flu-like symptoms are usual at the time of presentation for all 3 diseases, but these vary from asymptomatic to severe multi-system involvement. The pathology associated with symptomatic SARS and COVID-19 has been well described, the most prominent of which is diffuse alveolar damage (DAD). The immune response to each of these viruses is highly complex and includes both humoral and cellular components that can have a significant impact on prognosis. In severe cases of COVID-19, a dysregulated innate host immune system can initiate a hyperinflammatory syndrome dominated by endothelial dysfunction that can lead to a hypercoagulable state with microthrombi, resulting in a systemic micro- and macro-vascular disease.
Conclusions.—The SARS and MERS epidemics have been limited, involving 7,500 and 2,500 individuals, respectively. In contrast, COVID-19 has resulted in a worldwide pandemic with over 177 million cases and 3.9 million deaths as of June 15, 2021, and fatality rates ranging from <0.1% to ~10% depending upon the country. Ending on a positive note, the development of a number of vaccines, at least six of which now are in clinical use, should mitigate and eventually control the devastating COVID-19 pandemic.