COVID-19: A Potential Treatment for Loss of Smell

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by INRAE—National Research Institute for Agriculture, Food and Environment

Pathophysiological impact of early corticoid treatment on SARS-CoV-2 infection. (A) Experimental design to evaluate the treatment of SARS-CoV-2 infected hamsters with sub-cutaneous (SC) corticoid treatment started at 2 dpi until 11 dpi (days post infection) (B) Viral load in nasal swab collected from 1 to 5 dpi (C) Weight monitoring (D) Extra food consumption as an indirect measure of food intake (Mean ± SEM, n = 6, 2-way ANOVA followed by Bonferroni post-test; ns: P > 0.05; * P < 0.05). Credit: Brain, Behavior, and Immunity (2024). DOI: 10.1016/j.bbi.2024.02.020

One of the most persistent and debilitating symptoms of COVID-19 is anosmia or loss of smell. Researchers at INRAE and ENVA have discovered that a corticoid treatment could help restore the olfactory capacities affected by the viral infection. These results, published in Brain, Behavior, and Immunity, are a major step forward in understanding and treating this symptom.

COVID-19 is known to cause loss of smell in certain patients. While this symptom is generally temporary, approximately 10% of patients may suffer from it for six months or more.

Earlier research carried out by a team of researchers from INRAE and ENVA observed that the SARS-CoV-2 infected olfactory mucosa is invaded by immune cells, leading to its destruction and prolonged inflammation. Based on these observations, the same team decided to assess the effectiveness of corticosteroids—known for their anti-inflammatory properties—in restoring the sense of smell.

Their results support the existence of a direct link between the loss of smell caused by the virus and a decrease in the olfactory neuron population in the nasal mucosa. In addition, they show that early treatment with dexamethasone, a commonly used corticosteroid, improves the recovery of olfactory abilities in animals.

The improvement of the olfactory capacities is associated with a reduction of the immunity cells in the mucosa and an increased level of regeneration of the olfactory neuron population. These results suggest that the corticosteroid treatments currently used—which have not been very successful in the treatment of prolonged anosmia—could be more effective if prescribed early, at the onset of symptoms of loss of smell.

More information: Laetitia Merle-Nguyen et al, Early corticosteroid treatment enhances recovery from SARS-CoV-2 induced loss of smell in hamster, Brain, Behavior, and Immunity (2024). DOI: 10.1016/j.bbi.2024.02.020

Provided by INRAE—National Research Institute for Agriculture, Food and Environment

Citation: COVID-19: A potential treatment for loss of smell (2024, February 29) retrieved 29 February 2024 from

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