DURBAN – Experts from Harvard Medical School in the US say they have discovered why coronavirus causes people to lose their sense of smell. Loss of smell is one of the most common symptoms associated with Covid-19.
According to the study which was published in the peer-reviewed journal Science Advances the experts found that sensory neurons that detect and transmit the sense of smell to the brain are not among the vulnerable cell types.
Instead, the team found that coronavirus attacks the cells that provide metabolic and structural support to the sensory neurons, as well as certain stem and blood vessel cells.
Dr Sandeep Robert Datta, associate professor of neurobiology at Harvard Medical School and co-author of the study, said this was a positive finding because it suggests most cases of Covid-19 are unlikely to cause a permanent loss of smell.
“Our findings indicate that the novel coronavirus changes the sense of smell in patients not by directly infecting neurons but by affecting the function of supporting cells. We need more data and a better understanding of the underlying mechanisms to confirm this conclusion,” he said.
In another research conducted on a small group of Italians, it was found that one in ten people who endure mild disease still struggle to smell or taste one month after illness.
The study found just half of those with the symptom had fully regained their sense of taste and smell a month into their recovery.
Dr Claire Hopkins, one of the researchers and president of the British Rhinological Society, told the BBC: “Data from other viral illnesses, and some of the new data we are gathering, suggest the vast majority of people will get better but for some, recovery will be slow. For people who recover more quickly it is likely the virus has only affected the cells lining their nose.”
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