'Anosmia' COVID Symptom Could Be Permanent in Some People, Doctors Fear


Scientists fear COVID-19 survivors who still have not regained their sense of smell may be without it for the rest of their lives.

Anosmia, a diminished sense of smell, is one of the symptoms of COVID-19, The New York Times reported.

It occurs abruptly and is sometimes accompanied by an inability to taste.

Although most people regain their senses after they recover from the disease, a minority of patients still experience anosmia.

“You think of it as an aesthetic bonus sense,” Dr. Sandeep Robert Datta, an associate professor of neurobiology at Harvard Medical School, said, according to The Times.

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“But when someone is denied their sense of smell, it changes the way they perceive the environment and their place in the environment. People’s sense of well-being declines. It can be really jarring and disconcerting.”

Scientists are scrambling to figure out how the virus causes persistent anosmia and how to help people who have lost these essential senses.

“Many people have been doing olfactory research for decades and getting little attention,” said Dr. Dolores Malaspina, professor of psychiatry, neuroscience, genetics and genomics at a school of medicine in New York.

“COVID is just turning that field upside down.”

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In research published in July, Datta said scientists think people who suffer from long-lasting anosmia have sensory neurons die and they need to be regenerated, according to Today.

Although a sense of smell typically is tied to taste and appetite, as well as the pleasure of eating, losing the sense can affect people’s mood and quality of life.

Dr. Datta told The Times that anosmia has been linked to social isolation, an inability to feel pleasure and isolation.

“Smell is not something we pay a lot of attention to until it’s gone,” said Pamela Dalton, who studies smell and its link to cognition and emotion.

“Then people notice it, and it is pretty distressing. Nothing is quite the same.”

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Losing smell also can cause anxiety and depression.

“From a public health perspective, this is really important,” Dr. Datta said.

“If you think worldwide about the number of people with COVID, even if only 10 percent have a more prolonged smell loss, we’re talking about potentially millions of people.”

Smells also alert people to dangers such as fires and gas leaks, resulting in people who are more prone to accidents.

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Erin Coates was an editor for The Western Journal for over two years before becoming a news writer. A University of Oregon graduate, Erin has conducted research in data journalism and contributed to various publications as a writer and editor.
Erin Coates was an editor for The Western Journal for over two years before becoming a news writer. She grew up in San Diego, California, proceeding to attend the University of Oregon and graduate with honors holding a degree in journalism. During her time in Oregon, Erin was an associate editor for Ethos Magazine and a freelance writer for Eugene Magazine. She has conducted research in data journalism, which has been published in the book “Data Journalism: Past, Present and Future.” Erin is an avid runner with a heart for encouraging young girls and has served as a coach for the organization Girls on the Run. As a writer and editor, Erin strives to promote social dialogue and tell the story of those around her.
Tucson, Arizona
Graduated with Honors
Bachelor of Arts in Journalism, University of Oregon
Books Written
Contributor for Data Journalism: Past, Present and Future
Prescott, Arizona
Languages Spoken
English, French
Topics of Expertise
Politics, Health, Entertainment, Faith