“The virus that causes COVID-19 can damage some of the cells in the mouth and nose that help us to smell and taste,” explains UWA epidemiologist Dr Zoë Hyde.
“Fortunately, the body can grow new cells to replace these, but in a few unlucky people, we think the virus might also affect the nerves that carry signals from the nose to the brain. This type of problem could take longer to heal.”
New research suggests those ‘unlucky people’ could carry a genetic risk factor.
Saliva-based DNA company 23andMe recently analysed genetic samples from more than 1 million participants in the US and UK. Of almost 70,000 people who tested positive for COVID-19, 68% reported a loss of smell or taste.
The study found two gene variants located near two genes involved in our sense of smell and processing of molecules that carry smell.