Scientists Have Finally Figured Out Why We Lose Our Smell And Taste To COVID
The loss of smell has become one of the most defining, uncomfortable and quite frankly spooky symptoms of COVID.
The proper diagnosis for losing your sense of smell is known as anosmia but scientists have finally uncovered the first insights into why so many of us might be losing one of our most prized senses when we have COVID.
The Odourless Symptom
When most COVID patients lose their sense of smell it tends to happen without a blocked nose and unfortunately with the loss of smell also comes the loss of taste.
Heaps of people have been quoted describing their food tastes like cardboard or quite literally nothing.
In fact losing both your smell and taste became such an awful experience at the end of last year it started its own TikTok trend, the infamous burnt orange and brown sugar trick.
Some TikTokers claimed the unique remedy, apparently stemming from Jamaican culture, restored their loss of smell and taste.
But experts have cautioned that there is no scientific evidence backing this trend.
Experts have been finding that in most cases the sense of smell comes back to people after a few weeks.
So the timing could just be a complete coincidence with the people eating burnt oranges and being able to smell again.
In really rare cases people have reported that their sense of smell didn’t resolve for months after their initial infection.
Why Doctors Think This Is Happening
But scientists think they might have cracked the code as to why this is happening and like the vaccines research into COVID symptoms is happening in real-time, which means scientists are only just beginning to understand what is behind the loss of smell.
What they have found so far is that COVID doesn’t actually infect the nerve cells that detect odours in our nose.
The smell detectors in scientific terms are called olfactory receptor neurons and are proteins that sit on the surface of nerve cells in the nose that detect odours.
This new research has found that COVID doesn’t attack those proteins but instead attacks other supporting cells that line the nasal cavity. Sadly for the nose those supporting cells tend to shed the virus and die.
And at the same time that triggers trusty immune cells to enter the area to fight the virus off and what follows is a natural inflammation process.
But that inflammation actually impacts the smell receptors, the ones that weren’t infected in the first place, preventing them from doing their job properly. This means even though COVID doesn’t directly infect nerve cells critical to smell it indirectly impacts them by infecting those trying to support them.
In other words a real domino effect is happening up in our noses.
How Did Scientists Figure It Out?
The new study was led by a handful of prominent New York, Houston and California University medical centres and accompanying medical institutes. They collected human tissue specimens from 23 patients with COVID and also had some help from golden hamsters (yes, you read that right) to crack the covid case.
According to one of the Professors co-conducting the research hamsters can smell out Cocoa Puffs cereal in seconds if they still have their smell. So scientists tracked the damage to the hamsters’ olfactory system over time while they had COVID, with quite literally Cocoa Puffs.
What’s really promising is that scientists now think that they can apply these new findings to other COVID symptoms like long covid and brain fog.