Genetic link may cause lingering COVID symptoms

Scientists have found a possible genetic link in individuals still suffering from loss of taste and loss of smell after recovering from COVID-19.

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Scientists have found a possible genetic link in individuals still suffering from loss of taste and loss of smell after recovering from COVID-19 infections. The loss of these senses was a common symptom of the initial and subsequent strains of coronavirus. We don’t see it as much anymore with this omicron wave but those who suffered from Delta infections and even previous variants still suffer from their loss of taste and smell.

Early in the pandemic, it was clear that a sudden loss of these two intertwined senses was an early symptom of COVID-19. They often appeared before cold symptoms began to appear. A majority of those who have contracted this virus have experienced this very strange and frustrating symptom, however, the vast majority have recovered from it. Some were not so lucky and are still waiting. According to NBC News, 1.6 million Americans still live lives where they don’t like food or smell anything six months or more after recovery.

Smell and taste go hand in hand, and if one of these senses is disturbed, it will be very noticeable and affect your daily life. Scientists have researched the reasons why some people regain these senses and others do not. Although scientists don’t yet know why COVID-19 attacks these senses, they do know the source of the loss and have a theory.

The researchers believe that it is likely that COVID-19 attacks the cells of the olfactory epithelium of the nose. This is where humans’ sense of smell comes from and scientists theorize that the coronavirus attacks cells around the olfactory epithelium. These cells are there to protect the olfactory neurons which are there to allow humans to smell.

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For some reason, these olfactory cells are attacked during infection. Since only a few of those who have been recovered have yet to regain these senses, there was a suspected connection. A study published in nature genetics details the data scientists used to identify two genetic loci, UGT2A1 and UGT2A2 found in people who have not yet regained their sense of smell and taste. Scientists used data from 69,841 people and found that 68% of those with COVID-19 lost their sense of smell and taste. Women were more likely than men to have this symptom. The genomes were discovered after performing ancestor sequencing using data from the 23andMe database.

Although there is now a connection, there may soon be a solution for those wondering if they will taste their favorite foods again. It’s a disappointing symptom and no one would want to dwell on it.

Source: NBC News, nature genetics

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