Smelling Household-Odorants Effectively Screens for COVID-19
Johan N Lundstrom,
Posted 23 Feb 2021
medRxiv DOI: 10.1101/2021.02.18.21251422
Posted 23 Feb 2021
Key to curtailing the COVID-19 pandemic are wide-scale testing strategies1,2. An ideal test is one that would not rely on transporting, distributing, and collecting physical specimens. Given the olfactory impairment associated with COVID-193-7, we developed a novel measure of olfactory perception that relies on smelling household odorants and rating them online. We tested the performance of this real-time tool in 12,020 participants from 134 countries who provided 171,500 perceptual ratings of 60 different household odorants. We observed that olfactory ratings were indicative of COVID-19 status in a country, significantly correlating with national infection rates over time. More importantly, we observed remarkable indicative power at the individual level (90% sensitivity and 80% specificity). Critically, olfactory testing remained highly effective in participants with COVID-19 but without symptoms, and in participants with symptoms but without COVID-19. In this, the current odorant-based olfactory test stands apart from symptom-checkers (including olfactory symptom-checkers)3, and even from antigen tests8, to potentially provide a first line of screening that can help halt disease progression at the population level.
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