Coronavirus Smell Loss ‘Different From Cold And Flu’

Nikki Attkisson | Last Updated : August 25, 2020

European researchers who have studied the experiences of patients say that the loss of smell that can accompany coronavirus is unique and different from that experienced by someone with a bad cold or flu. The researchers have also found that when Covid-19 patients have smell loss it tends to be sudden and severe.

And they usually don’t have a blocked, stuffy or runny nose, they can still breathe freely. Another thing that is their “true” loss of taste, but the researchers in the journal Rhinology have pointed out that it’s not their taste is impaired, it’s their sense of smell is out of action.

Coronavirus Smell Loss 'Different From Cold And Flu'

Some experts suspect that this is because the pandemic virus affects the nerve cells directly involved with smell and taste sensation. Common symptoms of coronavirus are:

  • high temperature
  • new, continuous cough
  • loss of smell or taste

And they have also pointed out that anyone with these symptoms should self-isolate and arrange to have a swab test to check if they have the virus. Also, the members of their household should isolate too to prevent possible spread. 

Smell and taste tests were carried out by Lead investigator Prof Carl Philpott, from the University of East Anglia. They have conducted this test on 10 Covid-19 patients, 10 people with bad colds, and 10 healthy people with no cold or flu symptoms. From the research, they have found that smell loss was much more profound in Covid-19 patients, and they were less able to identify smells, and not able to discern bitter or sweet tastes at all. “There really do appear to be distinguishing features that set the coronavirus apart from other respiratory viruses. “This is very exciting because it means that smell and taste tests could be used to discriminate between Covid-19 patients and people with a regular cold or flu,” said Prof Philpott, who works with the charity Fifth Sense.

He also said that the people could do smell and taste on their own at home by using products like coffee, garlic, oranges or lemons, and sugar. And diagnostic throat and nose swab tests were still essential if someone thought they might have coronavirus. And also added that the senses of smell and taste return within a few weeks in most people who recover from coronavirus. 

Prof Andrew Lane, who is an expert in nose and sinus problems at Johns Hopkins University in the US. He and his team have conducted a study on tissue samples from the back of the nose to understand how coronavirus might cause loss of smell. Finally, their findings have published in the European Respiratory Journal, their findings have found that high levels of an enzyme which were present only in the area of the nose responsible for smelling. The enzyme is called ACE-2 (angiotensin-converting enzyme II), which is thought to be the “entry point” that allows coronavirus to get into the cells of the body and cause an infection. So from this study and research, it is clear that the nose is one of the places where Sars-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19, enters the body. 

“We are now doing more experiments in the lab to see whether the virus is indeed using these cells to access and infect the body. “If that’s the case, we may be able to tackle the infection with antiviral therapies delivered directly through the nose.” Prof Lane said.

Nikki Attkisson

With over 15 years as a practicing journalist, Nikki Attkisson found herself at Powdersville Post now after working at several other publications. She is an award-winning journalist with an entrepreneurial spirit and worked as a journalist covering technology, innovation, environmental issues, politics, health etc. Nikki Attkisson has also worked on product development, content strategy, and editorial management for numerous media companies. She began her career at local news stations and worked as a reporter in national newspapers.

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