JUL 26, 2020 3:31 PM PDT

How COVID-19 Causes Loss of Smell

WRITTEN BY: Annie Lennon

Temporary loss of smell, known as anosmia, is one of the most common early indicators of COVID-19. Although some say it may even be more accurate in predicting infection by the virus than having a fever or cough, the underlying mechanisms behind it have been unknown until now. 

Although olfactory cells do not have the ACE2 receptor protein (the protein COVD-19 most commonly uses to infect cells and replicate from), the protein is expressed in cells that structurally support olfactory sensory neurons, as well as some stem and blood vessel cells. Thus, the researchers suggest that infection of nonneuronal cell types may lead to a loss of smell in patients with COVID-19. 

The findings also imply that infection by SARS-CoV-2 is unlikely to leave permanent damage on olfactory neural circuits nor lead to permanent or long term loss of smell. 

“I think it’s good news, because once the infection clears, olfactory neurons don’t appear to need to be replaced or rebuilt from scratch,” says senior author of the study, Sandeep Robert Datta. “But we need more data and a better understanding of the underlying mechanisms to confirm this conclusion.”

So far, data analyses show that most COVID-19 patients are likey to have some level of anosmia, although it is usually temporary. Analyses of electronic health records indicate that people with COVID-19 are 27 times more likely to have a loss in smell, whereas only around 2.2 to 2.6 times as likely to have a fever, cough, or other respiratory problem, than those without the virus. 

The researchers hope their findings will accelerate efforts to better understand how anosmia works in patients with COVID-19. They hope that this understanding may then evolve into better treatments for the condition and the development of better smell-based diagnostics for those infected with the virus. 

 

Sources: Neuroscience NewsTechnology Networks

About the Author
  • Science writer with keen interests in technology and behavioral biology. Her current focus is on the interplay between these fields to create meaningful interactions, applications and environments.
You May Also Like
JUL 20, 2020
Neuroscience
Phantom-Limb Pain Reduced by Brain-Computer Interface
JUL 20, 2020
Phantom-Limb Pain Reduced by Brain-Computer Interface
Phantom-limb pain is a condition in which amputees feel like their amputated limb is still attached to their bodies. Whi ...
JUL 31, 2020
Drug Discovery & Development
Researchers Reverse Advanced Alzheimer's in Mice
JUL 31, 2020
Researchers Reverse Advanced Alzheimer's in Mice
Researchers from Macquarie University have found a way to reverse the effects of memory loss in mice with advanced demen ...
AUG 11, 2020
Neuroscience
Gastrointestinal Issues Linked to Behavioral Problems in Children
AUG 11, 2020
Gastrointestinal Issues Linked to Behavioral Problems in Children
Researchers from the University of California, Davis, have found that common gastrointestinal (GI) symptoms like diarrhe ...
SEP 21, 2020
Neuroscience
Scientists Compare Structural and Functional Evolution with First Atlas of Cavefish Brains
SEP 21, 2020
Scientists Compare Structural and Functional Evolution with First Atlas of Cavefish Brains
Cavefish are fish that dwell in caves, unable to access the outside world. Often, they were separated from their closest ...
OCT 03, 2020
Neuroscience
Crows Have Conscious Thought, Just Like Primates
OCT 03, 2020
Crows Have Conscious Thought, Just Like Primates
Researchers from the University of Tubingen in Germany have found that crows are capable of conscious thought. They say ...
OCT 13, 2020
Cell & Molecular Biology
A Small Part of the Brain May Transmit Inflammation From Mom to Fetus
OCT 13, 2020
A Small Part of the Brain May Transmit Inflammation From Mom to Fetus
There is still a lot we don't know about the brain, and especially about two small bits of tissue deep within it called ...
Loading Comments...