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Smell and taste loss becomes less prevalent with each new variant, VCU research shows

A new report out of VCU found that coronavirus patients with the Omicron variant are less...
A new report out of VCU found that coronavirus patients with the Omicron variant are less likely to develop loss of smell and taste.(NBC12)
Published: May. 10, 2022 at 4:51 PM EDT
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RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - COVID-19 cases are on the rise, but a common symptom we saw early on in the pandemic may become less of a concern.

A new report out of VCU found that coronavirus patients with the Omicron variant are less likely to develop loss of smell and taste.

It was a tell-tale sign back in 2020 when the pandemic first hit. If you lost your taste and smell, you’ve likely got the coronavirus. Now, researchers at VCU say the symptom is becoming less prevalent with each passing variant.

“Just because you don’t have a loss of smell and taste doesn’t mean you don’t have COVID,” said Dr. Daniel Coelho, a researcher studying Otolaryngology - Head and Neck Surgery at VCU.

Coelho and other researchers used a national database of over 3.5 million cases of patients who tested positive for COVID-19 since the onset of the pandemic.

“The frequency of patients with smell and taste loss associated with COVID-19 seems to be going down,” he said.

The chances of losing your taste and smell were 50% for the original Alpha variant, 44% for Delta, and just 17% for Omicron.

“In terms of what it makes the different variants less associated with smell and taste, that we’re still working on,” Dr. Coelho said.

While losing taste and smell may seem trivial to some, Dr. Coelho says it’s a serious matter.

“There are very high rates of depression and anxiety that go along with losing your sense of smell or taste, so it’s a significant problem,” he said.

He also says it goes beyond just tasting food.

“It has to deal with safety and being able to detect spoiled food, has to do with being able to protect smoke or gas,” he said.

At VCU, researchers are trying to find a solution for long-haulers still suffering.

“We’ve been developing a device that reportedly restores the sense of smell analogous to how a cochlear implant works for patients with hearing loss,” Dr. Coelho said. “We’ve been working on it here with my colleagues and I for over a decade or so, and we’re making progress on that so there is hope.”

If you have lost your taste and smell, or if certain foods and drinks taste different to you post-COVID, you can be a part of ongoing research.

It is an anonymous survey that will allow researchers to compile more data about this complex issue. To learn more, click here.

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