Why does COVID-19 leave some without taste and smell? It could be genes - study

A team of researchers at 23andme have identified a genetic risk factor that increased the odds that people would lose their sense of smell or taste after a COVID infection by 11%.

 Test tubes labelled "COVID-19 Omicron variant test positive" are seen in this illustration picture taken January 15, 2022.  (photo credit: REUTERS/DADO RUVIC/ILLUSTRATION)
Test tubes labelled "COVID-19 Omicron variant test positive" are seen in this illustration picture taken January 15, 2022.
(photo credit: REUTERS/DADO RUVIC/ILLUSTRATION)

A new study suggests there is a genetic factor that increases the odds of someone losing their sense of smell or taste after getting COVID-19.

A team of researchers at 23andme have identified a genetic risk factor that increased the odds of that happening by 11%, according to a study recently published in the journal Nature Genetics

Women were 11% more likely than men to report losing those senses after contracting the virus, the study said, with 73% of those affected being between 26 and 35 years old.

 People brace against the cold while waiting for COVID-19 test to be administered (credit: REUTERS/DAVID 'DEE' DELGADO) People brace against the cold while waiting for COVID-19 test to be administered (credit: REUTERS/DAVID 'DEE' DELGADO)

The team then conducted a genome study of those who reported the symptom and those who reported they didn’t have the symptom. They found a location near two genes— UGT2A1 and UGT2A2— associated with the loss of taste and smell from a bout of COVID-19. 

Researchers noted that the study had some limitations, including a bias towards people of European ancestry. Although more research is needed, the study’s findings might help scientists better understand why some people who contract the virus lose one or both senses.