CAMBRIDGE (CBS) — Many patients who have contracted the coronavirus are reporting that they experienced a loss of smell. Now new research out of Harvard University is supporting the link between that strange symptom and COVID-19.
The Crimson interviewed Harvard Medical School associate professor Sandeep R. Datta, whose team wanted to dig deeper into the anecdotal accounts about the coronavirus causing anosmia, or smell blindness. The scientists’ research paper published Saturday on bioRxiv is awaiting peer review.
“There seems to be a strong association between the development of disturbances in smell and getting COVID-19,” he told the newspaper. “It seems like this may be one of the hallmarks of the disease.”
Wondering how COVID-19 may cause anosmia? Us too! Check out our (very!) recent work taking a small first step towards exploring mechanisms through which SARS-CoV might damage our sense of smell. https://t.co/wLXTT6EtAM
— Sandeep Robert Datta (@Datta_Lab) March 28, 2020
The research looked at exactly how coronavirus affects cells in the nose.
“These findings suggest that SARS-CoV-2 does not directly infect sensory neurons, but instead attacks cells critical for supporting olfactory function and sensory neuron regeneration, potentially leading to both acute and long-lasting changes in smell,” Datta tweeted.
More research is needed, but Datta said the evidence so far shows that the sense seems to disappear very quickly in coronavirus patients.
“It’s a little bit like a switch being flipped, where one day you smell and the next day, you don’t,” Datta told The Crimson.