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More than just smell - COVID-19 is associated with severe impairment of smell, taste, and chemesthesis

By Valentina Parma, Kathrin Ohla, Maria G Veldhuizen, Masha Y Niv, Christine E. Kelly, Alyssa J Bakke, Keiland Cooper, Cédric Bouysset, Nicola Pirastu, Michele Dibattista, Rishemjit Kaur, Marco Tullio Liuzza, Marta Y. Pepino, Veronika Schöpf, Veronica Pereda-Loth, Shannon B Olsson, Richard C Gerkin, Paloma Rohlfs Domínguez, Javier Albayay, Michael C Farruggia, Surabhi Bhutani, Alexander W Fjaeldstad, Ritesh Kumar, Anna Menini, Moustafa Bensafi, Mari Sandell, Iordanis Konstantinidis, Antonella Di Pizio, Federica Genovese, Lina Ozturk, Thierry Thomas-Danguin, Johannes Frasnelli, Sanne Boesveldt, Özlem Saatci, Luis R Saraiva, Cailu Lin, Jerome Golebiowski, Liang-Dar Hwang, Mehmet Hakan Ozdener, Maria Dolors Guàrdia, Christophe Laudamiel, Marina Ritchie, Jan Havlícek, Denis Pierron, Eugeni Roura, Marta Navarro, Alissa Nolden, Juyun Lim, KL Whitcroft, Lauren R. Colquitt, Camille Ferdenzi, Evelyn V. Brindha, Aytug Altundag, Alberto Macchi, Alexia Nunez-Parra, Zara M. Patel, Sébastien Fiorucci, Carl Philpott, Barry Smith, Johan N Lundstrom, Carla Mucignat-Caretta, Jane K Parker, Mirjam van den Brink, Michael Schmuker, Florian Ph.S Fischmeister, Thomas Heinbockel, Vonnie D.C. Shields, Farhoud Faraji, Enrique Enrique Santamaría, William E.A. Fredborg, Gabriella Morini, Jonas K. Olofsson, Maryam Jalessi, Noam Karni, Anna D'Errico, Rafieh Alizadeh, Robert Pellegrino, Pablo Meyer, Caroline Huart, Ben Chen, Graciela M. Soler, Mohammed K. Alwashahi, Olagunju Abdulrahman, Antje Welge-Lüssen, Pamela Dalton, Jessica Freiherr, Carol H. Yan, Jasper de Groot, Vera V. Voznessenskaya, Hadar Klein, Jingguo Chen, Masako Okamoto, Elizabeth A. Sell, Preet Bano Singh, Julie Walsh-Messinger, Nicholas S. Archer, Sachiko Koyama, Vincent Deary, S. Craig Roberts, Hüseyin Yanik, Samet Albayrak, Lenka Martinec Novákov, Iljia Croijmans, Patricia Portillo Mazal, Shima Moein, Eitan Margulis, Coralie Mignot, Sajidxa Mariño, Dejan Georgiev, Pavan K. Kaushik, Bettina Malnic, Hong Wang, Shima Seyed-Allaei, Nur Yoluk, Sara Razzaghi, Jeb M. Justice, Diego Restrepo, Julien W. Hsieh, Danielle R Reed, Thomas Hummel, Steven D. Munger, John E Hayes

Posted 08 May 2020
medRxiv DOI: 10.1101/2020.05.04.20090902

Recent anecdotal and scientific reports have provided evidence of a link between COVID-19 and chemosensory impairments such as anosmia. However, these reports have downplayed or failed to distinguish potential effects on taste, ignored chemesthesis, generally lacked quantitative measurements, were mostly restricted to data from single countries. Here, we report the development, implementation and initial results of a multi-lingual, international questionnaire to assess self-reported quantity and quality of perception in three distinct chemosensory modalities (smell, taste, and chemesthesis) before and during COVID-19. In the first 11 days after questionnaire launch, 4039 participants (2913 women, 1118 men, 8 other, ages 19-79) reported a COVID-19 diagnosis either via laboratory tests or clinical assessment. Importantly, smell, taste and chemesthetic function were each significantly reduced compared to their status before the disease. Difference scores (maximum possible change+/-100) revealed a mean reduction of smell (-79.7+/- 28.7, mean+/- SD), taste (-69.0+/- 32.6), and chemesthetic (-37.3+/- 36.2) function during COVID-19. Qualitative changes in olfactory ability (parosmia and phantosmia) were relatively rare and correlated with smell loss. Importantly, perceived nasal obstruction did not account for smell loss. Furthermore, chemosensory impairments were similar between participants in the laboratory test and clinical assessment groups. These results show that COVID-19-associated chemosensory impairment is not limited to smell, but also affects taste and chemesthesis. The multimodal impact of COVID-19 and lack of perceived nasal obstruction suggest that SARS-CoV-2 infection may disrupt sensory-neural mechanisms.

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