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Covid-19 effects on the brain may lead to loss of smell

CAPE TOWN – Some Covid-19 patients have experienced a loss in smell with researchers believing it could be caused by the effects Covid-19 may have on the brain.

As the Covid-19 pandemic continues, researchers continue to learn more about the novel coronavirus and how to treat it with the development of an official vaccine yet to be completed.

There is a wide range of symptoms commonly faced, some more than the others, but the sudden loss in smell experienced by some Covid-19 patients left many researchers looking for the exact cause.

In a recent study published in the medRxiv, researchers believe that the cause of the symptom may be due to the changes in the metabolism of sugar in certain parts of the brain which is involved in the processing of smell.

The loss of smell symptom is called anosmia which accounts for 10 to 15 percent of cases in other respiratory illnesses or the common cold, so for Covid-19 to cause a sudden loss of smell wouldn’t be too surprising.

The researchers were a team of scientists at the Functional Brain Mapping Laboratory at Belgium’s ULB (Université libre de Bruxelles) who scanned the brains of 12 Covid-19 infected patients who suffered from the anosmia symptom and 26 healthy individuals for comparison.

Loss of smell was the main symptom of Covid-19 for seven of the patients. Five only recovered their sense of smell within 10 weeks after they had recovered from the infection but the remaining seven still faced difficulties with their sense of smell up to 16 weeks after their bodies were cleared from the Covid-19 infection.

When comparing their findings to the healthy participants, the researchers found that the Covid-19 patients displayed higher glucose metabolism in three parts in the brain responsible for smell – adjacent neural tissue, olfactory cleft and the olfactory bulbs.

The study is yet to be peer-reviewed and with the sample size being this small, their findings could serve as a pilot for further research in efforts to assist the recovery of Covid-19 patients who suffer extended periods of anosmia.

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