COVID-19. It has been more than a year that the world has encountered the novel coronavirus named SARS-CoV-2. Almost 86.5 million people have been infected with the virus with 1.87 million deaths. Ever since the virus had appeared on the face of the Earth, all the communities have been affected badly. The pandemic has not only brought the health crisis but the biggest economic crash as well. The scientific community is continuously using its resources to figure out a potential cure & control for the disease. However, this is a completely new strain of the virus with common signs and symptoms but unique pathophysiology.
Losing Taste and Smell: Anosmia and Ageusia
Out of many symptoms of the COVID-19, two of the most distinct ones are anosmia and ageusia. The former is the loss of sense of smell and the latter is the loss of taste. Early on in the pandemic, these two symptoms were reported anecdotally around the world. Almost all the people who were infected with the coronavirus reported loss of sense of smell and taste. Based on such wide occurrences and reports, the World Health Organization (WHO) officially declared anosmia and ageusia as the symptoms of COVID-19.
Loss of sense of smell and taste have been very important in the confirmation of the disease. This is because other common symptoms like fever, flu, sore throat, and body ache are observed in influenza and common cold as well. They might create confusion about the occurrence of the disease but the loss of smell and taste prompt people to contact their doctors for testing and getting proper treatment.
COVID-19 and Anosmia Research
Many research studies are going on for evaluating and determining the link between the coronavirus and loss of smell and taste. However, no definite association is highlighted yet. Many human and mice based studies suggest that the coronavirus induces inflammation and swelling in the nasal cavities. This inflammation damages the olfactory nerves and their receptor cells which hampers the abilities of an individual to smell. The Harvard researchers believe that the virus affects the nasal cells temporarily and not the olfactory nerve. This is why people when recovering from the infection report to have their senses back.
Another theory says that SARS-CoV-2 or the coronavirus binds to the ACE2 protein found abundantly on the cells that surround and support the olfactory nerve cells. The virus causes the infection of these surrounding cells which increases the level of inflammation in the nose and mouth which affects the sense of taste and smell. In addition, it has also been reported that the virus targets the olfactory cilia leading to the loss of smell. A transmission electron microscopic study suggests that the Coronavirus infects the ciliated cells in the nasal cavity and causes deciliation. This loss of cilia followed by difficult or improper regrowth impairs the sense of smell in the patients.
The loss of smell is devastating in careers like sommeliers, chefs, and perfumers. That is only the tip of the iceberg. The senses of smell and taste are far more important than most people realize. The loss of smell has major negative health effects for many people. The terrible truht is that Anosmia is a hidden threat to the well-being of millions of Americans.
What You Can Do
Many expert researchers say that the virus doesn’t directly invade the taste buds. They consider the loss of smell and taste as a consequent condition. As the virus impairs the sense of smell, the person experiences loss of taste as a consequence. However, research is still underway. Scientists are striving hard to figure out the exact cause behind the virus affecting these senses. By far, the damage caused by the virus to the olfactory nerve serves as the best explanation.
Current research shows there is hope. Smell therapy. of the type used at the Anosmia Recovery Project, has been proven to be highly effective.
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