Prof. Rachel Batterham and colleagues of the University College London have published a study regarding COVID-19 in PLOS Medicine. According to them, every fourth person (suffering from coronavirus) out of five has experienced loss of smell and/or taste. Moreover, a gross 40% did not have a cough or fever despite testing positive for the disease.
Though COVID-19 has been linked to loss of taste and smell, the occurrence of COVID-19 antibodies in people having these symptoms is unknown. In addition, the exact reason for the loss of smell or taste as a predictor of COVID-19 is yet to be understood fully.
Researchers carried out a study of 590 people who reported the loss of taste/smell in the previous month to understand this phenomenon. After their symptoms were confirmed through a telemedicine consultation, 567 patients reporting smell or taste loss were subjected to a SARS-CoV-2 antibodies test.
The results showed that 78% of patients had SARS-CoV-2 antibodies. While the patients reporting the loss of smell had a three-fold increase of SARS-CoV-2 antibodies compared to the loss of taste. This confirmed that loss of smell is an essential symptom of COVID-19 and is greatly linked with the disease itself. Another surprising finding was that 40% of the patients showed no symptoms of cough or respiratory issues.
The study urges the scientific community to pay greater attention to the loss of smell, especially for asymptomatic patients. Moreover, it warns the countries globally against ignoring the loss of smell as a potential Covid-19 symptom. Therefore, the loss of smell should be strongly emphasized, whereas the over-reliance on cough and respiratory issues should also be minimized.
These findings also have significant implications for policymakers globally, as most countries do not recommend self-isolation and testing based on acute loss of smell/taste. This study suggests that an over-reliance on cough and fever as the main symptoms of COVID-19 may be flawed and that loss of smell needs to be urgently recognized globally as a key symptom of COVID-19.