Researchers find genetic link to COVID-19-induced loss of smell and taste – The Hill

The story at a glance

  • A new study suggests there is a genetic factor that increases a person’s chance of losing their sense of smell or taste after contracting COVID-19.
  • Researchers analyzed data from nearly 70,000 people for the study.
  • Although more research is needed, the study results could help scientists better understand why some people who contract the virus lose one or both senses.

Scientists are potentially on the verge of understanding why some people lose their sense of smell or taste after contracting COVID-19.

A team of researchers has identified a genetic risk factor that increases a person’s chance of losing their sense of smell or taste by 11% after a COVID-19 infection, according to a study recently published in the journal Natural genetics.

Researchers believe the culprit is a locus, or particular location of a gene on a chromosome, located near two olfactory genes linked to COVID-19-related loss of taste and smell.

Loss of smell and/or taste is a common early symptom of COVID-19 infection, with a study claiming that up to more than a million people have lost their sense of smell for six months or more after contracting the virus.


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The researchers collected data from genetic testing company 23andMe, on nearly 70,000 adults who said they had tested positive for the virus, according to the study.

Although the study results provide important insight into what might cause COVID-19-induced loss of smell and taste, the researchers noted that the study had limitations.

The researchers note that the study is biased toward people of European ancestry and that loss of smell or taste was combined into a single survey question.

“Loss of smell without loss of taste may be distinct from loss of both or loss of taste without loss of smell”, says the study. “Given this, it is unclear whether our results are more strongly related to one symptom or the other.”


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Posted on January 18, 2022

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