People who experience loss of smell as one of the symptoms of coronavirus are likely to have a clinical course of the disease ranging from mild to moderate, according to a study which might help healthcare providers determine which patients need hospitalisation, PTI reported.
The findings of the study, published in the journal International Forum of Allergy and Rhinology, follow an earlier study which stated that loss of smell and taste were indicators of a coronavirus infection.
Scientists from the University of California (UC) San Diego Health in the United States, said patients who reported loss of smell and taste were 10 times less likely to be hospitalised for the disease when compared to those without the symptom.
Carol Yan, a rhinologist from the UC Sand Diego Health and first author of the study, said, “One of the immediate challenges for health care providers is to determine how to best treat persons infected by the novel coronavirus.”
Yan said that it appears that loss of smell may predict that a SARS-CoV-2 infection will not be as severe, and less likely to require hospitalisation.
Other studies have stated age and underlying medical conditions such as chronic lung disease, serious heart conditions, diabetes and obesity as the risk factors for COVID-19.
The current study includes a retrospective analysis done on data of 128 out of 169 COVID-19 patients between March 3 and April 8, 26 of whom required hospitalisation.
Researchers said that patients who were hospitalised for treatment were less likely to report loss of smell (anosmia) — 26.9 per cent compared to 66.7 per cent for COVID-19-infected persons treated as outpatients. Similar percentages were observed for loss of taste (dysgeusia)
“The site and dosage of the initial viral burden, along with the effectiveness of the host immune response, are all potentially important variables in determining the spread of the virus within a person and, ultimately the clinical course of the infection,” said Adam S DeConde, study co-author.
Scientists suggested that if the virus initially concentrates in the nose and upper airway, it might result in an infection which is less severe and sudden in onset, decreasing the risk of overwhelming the host immune response, respiratory failure and hospitalisation.
The study said that loss of smell may also indicate a robust immune response which has been localised to the nasal passages, limiting effects elsewhere in the body.
Scientists cited the limitations of the study and said that they relied upon self-reporting of anosmia from participants, posing a higher chance of recall bias among patients once they had been diagnosed with the disease, adding that patients with more severe respiratory disease may not be as likely to recall or recognise the loss of smell. Hence more expansive studies were needed to validate the results.
(With PTI inputs)
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