About Half of COVID-19 Patients Have Altered Sense of Taste

By David Douglas

May 13, 2020

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Almost half of patients with COVID-19 have altered taste sensation, according to a pooled analysis of available data.

"We believe that the actual prevalence is even higher and underreported due to the manifestation of other severe symptoms such as shortness of breath, fever, cough, and sputum production," Dr. Muhammad Aziz of the University of Toledo, in Ohio, told Reuters Health by email,

SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, may alter taste by binding to angiotensin-converting enzyme-2 receptors, which are also expressed on the surface of the tongue and oral cavity, Dr. Aziz and colleagues note in Gastroenterology.

Following a review of available material on the subject the researchers identified five studies involving 817 patients. The period covered was from January 16 until March 29.

The prevalence of ageusia/dysgeusia was 49.8% overall. Only one study compared the prevalence of altered taste in COVID-19-positive and -negative patients who underwent testing based on suspicion. This showed that a significantly greater proportion of positive (62.0%) than negative (11.0%) patients reported ageusia/dysgeusia.

Among limitations of the study, say the researchers, was that no data were available on the association of ageusia/dysgeusia with acute respiratory distress syndrome, mortality, intensive-care unit (ICU) admission, need for a ventilator, or length of ICU stay.

Dr. Aziz noted, "taste changes can be the only symptom in some cases. Therefore, altered taste should be a screening question for both COVID-19 confirmed patients as well as healthy people - perhaps as carriers due to mild disease."

SOURCE: https://bit.ly/2Z09Esz Gastroenterology, online May 5, 2020.