New research confirms taste and smell losses are COVID-19 indicators

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PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — New research confirms what we've been hearing for months from doctors and patients: people who lose their sense of smell and taste are highly likely to have been infected with coronavirus.

A British research team recruited nearly 600 volunteers during the peak of the pandemic in London this past Spring, and they found that 77% had COVID-19 antibodies. Around 80% of that group had lost their senses of smell and taste.

Pamela Dalton and her colleagues at the Monell Chemical Senses Center in University City have been saying the same thing for months.

"This is probably one of the first disorders that we've seen that produces a complete shutdown of the olfactory system among a large group of people," she said.

Dalton said some people have yet to regain their olfactory system, while others have found that everything smelled bad.

"Like chocolate smells like gasoline to you," she said as an example. "But that's a sign that the system is trying to rewire itself."

It generally takes several months for individual receptors to come back but up to a year for the entire system to rewire itself, according to Dalton. She believes the loss of taste and smell is a better predictor of COVID-19 infection than fever or any of the other symptoms they're screening for.