Finally, one of the many secrets of COVID-19 can be solved.
Researchers at Harvard Medical School say they have discovered why some people infected with coronavirus lose their sense of smell.
The symptom of anosmia, called by doctors, is one of the earliest and most commonly reported indicators of the virus.
Some studies suggest that this may actually be a better way to predict the presence of this disease than other known symptoms such as fever and cough.
So far, however, researchers have been puzzled by how some patients have been robbed.
The researchers sought to better understand how olfactory patients change their smell by identifying cell types that are vulnerable to SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.
After analyzing various data sets, they found that it attacks cells that support olfactory sensory neurons that detect and transmit olfactory sensation in the brain.
“Our findings show that the new coronavirus alters patients’ sense of smell, not by directly infecting neurons, but by affecting mast cell function,” said Sandeep Robert Datta, a professor and co-author of neurobiology at Harvard Medical School.
This means the virus is unlikely to do complete damage to the olfactory circuits of the olfactory, meaning patients can regain a sense of smell, the researchers said.
“I think that’s good news, because when the infection goes away, there are no olfactory neurons that need to be replaced or rebuilt from scratch,” Datta said in a statement.
However, he added: “We need more data and a better understanding of the underlying mechanisms to confirm this conclusion.”
Their study was published in the peer-reviewed journal Science Advances on Friday.