Loss of Smell, Taste Less Likely With Newer COVID-19 Variants

Lower risk for developing chemosensory loss observed with alpha, delta, and omicron variants

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WEDNESDAY, May 18, 2022 (HealthDay News) -- Loss of smell and taste are less likely with new COVID-19 variants when compared with the initial untyped COVID-19, according to a study published online May 3 in Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery.

Daniel H. Coelho, M.D., from Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, and colleagues used data from the National COVID Cohort Collaborative to identify all patients with and without smell and taste loss within two weeks of COVID-19 diagnosis. The analysis included 616,318 patients diagnosed during six-week periods of peak variant prevalence.

The researchers found that 3,431 patients had a COVID-19-associated smell or taste disturbance diagnosis. Compared with the initial COVID-19 untyped variant, the risk for loss of smell or taste decreased with the alpha, delta, and omicron variants (odds ratios, 0.50, 0.44, and 0.17, respectively).

"This is not just about being able to enjoy a fine bottle of wine again; it’s about safety and preserving your quality of life," Coelho said in a statement. "Our research shows that more than 50 percent of people suffering from smell and taste loss have reported feeling depressed. Patients with smell loss also have a higher rate of dementia. Fewer people experiencing these symptoms means fewer people being impacted by mood changes and cognitive problems."

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