In a new study, researchers found that the loss of the sense of smell is most likely to occur by the third day of infection with the novel virus.
Most of these patients are also experiencing a loss of the sense of taste.
The research was conducted by a team at the University of Cincinnati and elsewhere.
The telephone study examined characteristics and symptoms of 103 patients who were diagnosed with COVID-19 over a six-week period at Kantonsspital Aarau in Aarau, Switzerland.
Patients were asked how many days they had COVID-19 symptoms and also asked to describe the timing and severity of the loss or reduced sense of smell along with other symptoms.
The team found at least 61% of the patients reported reduced or lost sense of smell. The mean onset for reduction or loss in the sense of smell was 3.4 days.
They also found in this study that the severity of the loss of smell is correlated with how bad your other COVID-19 symptoms will be.
If the anosmia, also known as loss of smell, is worse, the patients reported worse shortness of breath and more severe fever and cough.
The team says the relationship between decreased sense of smell and the rest of the COVID-19 is something to be aware of.
If someone has a decreased sense of smell with COVID-19 we know they are within the first week of the disease course and there is still another week or two to expect.
The team says an experimental antiviral drug, remdesivir, developed by Gilead Sciences to initially treat Ebola, is showing some promise in treating COVID-19 patients.
It has been granted emergency approval by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to treat severely ill COVID-19 patients since a National Institutes of Health-sponsored clinical trial showed that patients experienced a shorter recovery time when taking remdesivir compared to a placebo.
Having an available antiviral treatment for COVID-19 may mean it’s much more important to have an indicator of prognosis and how far the disease has progressed in patients.
According to the team, antiviral medications have historically worked best when given early during a viral infection. The same is hypothesized to be true for remdesivir.
This study indicates that a decreased sense of smell may be an indicator of patients early in the disease course as well as those who may go on to develop more severe symptoms, like shortness of breath, later on.
Once remdesivir becomes more widely available, a decreased sense of smell may, therefore, identify patients who would be excellent candidates for the medication.
The team cautions that while the loss of smell is an indicator of COVID-19, it’s not the only factor.
The study also found that younger patients and women in the study were also more likely to experience a decreased loss of smell.
Also, about 50% of study patients experienced a stuffy nose and 35% experienced a runny nose.
The leader of the study is Ahmad Sedaghat, MD, Ph.D., an associate professor in the UC College of Medicine’s Department of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery.
The study is published in Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery.
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