Why Loss of Smell Occurs in COVID

Millions of people suffering from long-COVID have yet to recover their sense of smell. A team of scientists has now discovered why.

A study of samples collected from 24 nasal biopsies of previously infected individuals revealed a widespread inflammatory response on the tissue in the nose where smell nerve cells are located. These sensory nerves were also diminished, possibly due to the ongoing damage to this delicate tissue of the nose.

“The findings are striking,” says senior author Bradley Goldstein, M.D., Ph.D., associate professor in Duke’s Department of Head and Neck Surgery and Communication Sciences and the Department of Neurobiology. “It’s almost resembling a sort of autoimmune-like process in the nose.”

But the results of this study are promising.

Goldstein said learning what sites are damaged and what cell types are involved is a crucial step toward beginning to design treatments. Work that is currently already underway in his lab.

The findings of this study could also offer insight into other long-hauler symptoms that might be undergoing similar inflammatory processes.

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