Researchers study COVID-19-related loss of smell

COVID-19 Loss of Smell

By Dr. Paul Wright, Senior Vice President and System Chair of the Neuroscience Institute at Nuvance Health


As the COVID-19 pandemic began to spread across the globe, researchers and physicians observed that some patients were reporting loss of smell during and after infection with the virus.


Although it is common to lose your sense of smell temporarily during an upper respiratory infection due to inflammation and congestion that blocks smell receptors, patients reporting COVID-19-related loss of smell did not always have typical accompanying symptoms.


Loss of smell symptoms were also different from person to person. Some people experienced a complete loss of smell, while others only experienced a partial loss. Other people recovered their sense of smell quickly after their infection resolved, and for others, it took weeks or months for their sense of smell to return. In some cases, loss of smell attributed to COVID-19 has not returned at all.


A group called Global Consortium for Chemosensory Research — made up of 630 members from 64 countries — as well as independent researchers studied loss of smell related to COVID-19 to better understand the symptom and the virus.


Researchers have learned that COVID-19 targets and attaches to ACE-2 receptors, which are found in the muscles, nerves and nose. Although olfactory sensory neurons, which allow us to smell, do not contain ACE-2 receptors, the cells that surround them do. The virus can cause loss of smell in some people due to the location of ACE-2 receptors in the nose, and the virus attacking and binding to the receptors.

The degree of viral damage to the cells that surround olfactory sensory neurons and contain ACE-2 receptors may explain the different degrees of loss of smell that people experience. And, because ACE-2 receptors are found in so many locations in our bodies, researchers suspect that this is why there are so many different symptoms of COVID-19.


Researchers are still learning about COVID-19 and the long-term effects of the virus, including lingering loss of smell. If you are experiencing long-lasting symptoms after recovering from COVID-19, help is available at Nuvance Health’s COVID-19 Recovery Program.


If you or a loved one need medical support after recovering from COVID-19, call 203-633-0264 (TTY 203-899-5016) to schedule a virtual physician visit and receive a customized treatment plan. Learn more about the Nuvance Health COVID-19 Recovery Program.


Dr. Paul Wright has more than 20 years of experience in neurology. Board certified in psychiatry and neurology, Dr. Wright has extensive research experience including studying the effectiveness of novel therapies such as electroceuticals to treat neurological diseases.

Paul Wright