Altered sense of taste in half COVID-19 cases, study finds


Nearly half of individuals who contract the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) experience changes in their sense of taste, according to a new analysis led by the University of Toledo in Ohio and published in the journal Gastroenterology.

For the study, researchers analyzed data from five studies conducted between mid-January and the end of March. Of the 817 patients studied, 49.8 percent experienced changes to their sense of taste. Researchers said they suspect the prevalence could be higher because some of the studies were based on reviews of patient charts, which may not have noted every symptom.

Prior research has found that a significant number of people who have COVID-19 don't know they've been infected and may be spreading the virus, the researchers said.

Taste disorders are tied to a variety of viral illnesses. The review did not attempt to identify the reason that COVID-19 is causing changes in patients' sense of taste; however, researchers theorize it could be COVID-19's ability to bind to what's known as the ACE-2 receptor, which is expressed in epithelial cells on the tongue and mouth.

Because the novel coronavirus was unknown prior to its emergence in January, scientists have been moving rapidly to learn more about both the virus and the disease it causes.

Muhammad Aziz, MD, chief internal medicine resident at the University of Toledo and the study lead author, aid the drip of new information shows the need for more scientists to dig into the impacts of COVID-19.

“A lot of things are being missed, which is why I think researchers from every field should try to look into this and see if it's affecting their specialty in one way or another,” he said in a statement. “Who knows what systems this virus is affecting. If we can catch it earlier in the disease course, we can prevent the spread of the virus and potentially have ways of managing it.”

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