COVID-19 impacts smell, taste and touch, according to a new study by international researchers, including one from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. These symptoms may be an important way to distinguish COVID-19 infection from other viral infections.
“Our findings show that COVID-19 broadly impacts chemosensory function and is not limited to smell loss, and that disruption in these functions should be considered a possible indicator of COVID-19,” said Professor Masha Niv, vice dean at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem’s Faculty of Agriculture, Food and Environment.
According to the research, which was published by the online health sciences journal MedRxiv, the link between COVID-19 and chemosensory impairment – reduction of taste and smell acuity – had been anecdotally linked to the novel coronavirus, but had often been downplayed, lacked quantitative measurements or had ignored chemesthesis (touch).
In this case, the Global Consortium of Chemosensory Research carried out a multi-lingual, international survey of 4,039 COVID-19 patients. The survey, which is available in 27 languages and was taken by people in 40 countries, was launched on April 7 and preliminary data was pulled on April 18. Participants are asked to quantify their smell, taste and chemesthetic senses both before and during the illness, and to report any nasal blockages.
So far, 30,000 people have responded.
“GCCR found that smell, taste and chemesthesis are significantly reduced during the illness,” a release about the study stated. “Nasal blockage does not appear to be associated with these sense losses, suggesting that these symptoms may be an important way to distinguish COVID-19 infection from other viral infections,” such as the cold or flu. It could then also help countries with limited coronavirus testing supplies to prioritize who is screened for the novel disease.
“What’s needed to fight a global pandemic is a global approach,” Niv said. “We’ve harnessed scientists, clinicians and patients from around the world to give us a better understanding of the disease’s impact on various populations and to provide us with significant clues towards better diagnosis and treatment of the COVID-19 disease.”If you have had COVID-19, take the survey.