The symptoms of Covid-19 also include loss of the senses of smell and taste. MedUni Vienna is currently taking a leading role in research projects – some of them global – to study the prevalence and course of olfactory dysfunction in people with COVID-19.
"Currently there are only a few isolated reports of experiences from South Korea and Germany, which show that 30 - 66% of people with COVID-19 experience loss of smell. There is currently a lack of detailed data, gathered using validated smell tests, on loss of the senses of smell and taste associated with COVID-19," says Christian A. Müller, Head of the Outpatient Clinic for Allergy, Olfactory and Gustatory Disorders at MedUni Vienna’s Department of Ear, Nose and Throat Diseases.
Together with his research group and in collaboration with Bertold Renner from the Technical University of Dresden, Müller has developed a smell test for the sensory perception of odours via the nose and throat (retronasal perception) and this is now being used as part of a current study of patients with olfactory dysfunction following confirmed COVID-19. "Despite home-quarantine, this can be used to measure the severity and duration of loss of smell," explains Müller. The patients will be sent a screening smell test and questionnaires, which they will be asked to complete and return to us." The smell test consists of 7 "aromatic sweets", which are placed on the middle of the tongue and sucked – the subjects are then asked to identify the correct aromatic substance from a range of possible options and put a cross against it.
Once circumstances permit, all participants will be invited to Vienna General Hospital for monitoring and enhanced testing. The study is intended to establish the prevalence, severity, duration and course of olfactory and gustatory dysfunction associated with COVID-19. Sufferers can register to take part in the study by calling the ENT Outpatient Clinic on 01/40 400/333 00 or emailing: email@example.com.
International consortium established – online survey started
Scientists worldwide have recently united to form the Global Consortium of Chemosensory Researchers (GCCR) to investigate in greater detail the connection between the loss of smell and taste and COVID-19 on a global scale. Apart from Christian A. Müller, a long-standing scientific partner in international chemosensory (smelling, tasting, trigeminal nerve) research groups, the GCCR also includes brain researcher Veronika Schöpf, visiting Professor at MedUni Vienna's Department of Biomedical Imaging and Image-guided Therapy, who is studying the human olfactory system. She is also the contact person of the GCCR for Austria.
The GCCR currently comprises more than 500 clinicians, neurobiologists, data scientists, cognitive scientists, sensory researchers and technicians from 38 different countries. The GCCR intends to use the data collected in a recently launched worldwide Survey to determine how the virus is transmitted and how to prevent its spread. The survey is being translated into more than 20 languages and will be available to individuals and clinicians on the GCCR website: gcchemosensr.org.
Schöpf explains: "GCCR urges anyone who has recently experienced loss of their sense of smell to take part in the survey. Anyone suddenly experiencing smell loss should self-isolate and consult their GP ."