Swedish scientists launch study into lost sense of smell caused by COVID-19: report

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STOCKHOLM, Feb. 1 (Xinhua) -- Loss of smell is one of the symptoms experienced by people infected by the novel coronavirus. Now, scientists in Sweden hope a unique comparison of brain images taken before and after infection might shed light on the phenomenon that seems to be very common, Sweden's public television SVT news reported Monday in an online article.

"We believe about 50 to 70 percent of those who have had COVID-19 get some form of problem with their sense of smell. Estimating that half a million Swedes have confirmed COVID-19, a significant proportion will have permanent problems," Johan Lundstrom, researcher and senior lecturer at Karolinska Institutet, told SVT.

"COVID-19 destroys the support cells of the olfactory sensory receptors. We believe the virus settles on the part of the olfactory brain called the olfactory bulb via olfactory nerves," Lundstrom said.

The new study will now investigate this theory. Twenty individuals, of whom ten have tested positive for COVID-19, are included. Before the pandemic, all of them had their brains scanned with magnetic resonance imaging for another research project into the olfactory sense. Now, new scans will be done and compared with the old ones.

Loss of smell, which seems to be more prevalent among young women who contracted COVID-19, has also been linked to other problems such as considerable weight loss. To compensate for the loss of smell, COVID-19 patients often consume more sugar and fatty food. The condition has also been linked to depressions if the problem is lasting, Lundstrom said.

"We do not know exactly why this is, but one theory is that the same parts of the brain that process odors that are affected by depression."

The first results are expected within six months. Enditem

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