What is the role of infection in the etiology of taste and smell disorders?

Updated: Jan 08, 2021
  • Author: Eric H Holbrook, MD; Chief Editor: Arlen D Meyers, MD, MBA  more...
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Infectious and inflammatory processes contribute to central defects in olfaction and in transmission. A viral URTI may result in smell loss by replacing olfactory neuroepithelium with respiratory epithelium, but studies suggest that stem cells remain, allowing for potential regeneration of the olfactory epithelium. Recovery of smell in these cases can take months to years and, in some instances, may never occur. Sarcoidosis (affecting neural structures), Wegener granulomatosis, and multiple sclerosis are also diseases that can result in smell loss. Once thought to be mostly a conductive defect through mucosal edema and polyp formation, chronic rhinosinusitis also appears to disrupt the neuroepithelium with irreversible loss of olfactory receptors through up-regulated apoptosis.

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