One of the most widely reported symptoms of coronavirus is a loss of smell, but why is it that this illness causes you to lose your olfactory senses?
According to the New York Post, researchers at Harvard Medical School may have the answers. The symptom, referred to by doctors as anosmia, is one of the earliest signs of coronavirus in many patients.
Researchers have studied the cells that the SARS-CoV-2 virus attacks, finding that the most vulnerable are those that detect and transmit the sense of smell to the brain.
Until now, scientists have been stumped over the bizarre symptom of the virus.
"Our findings indicate that the novel coronavirus changes the sense of smell in patients not by directly infecting neurons but by affecting the function of supporting cells," Sandeep Robert Datta, neurobiology professor at Harvard Medical School, explains.
This is good news for patients, as it means that the loss of smell symptom is only temporary and won't elicit permanent damage to olfactory neuron circuits.
"I think it's good news, because once the infection clears, olfactory neurons don't appear to need to be replaced or built from scratch," Datta continues.
All of that said, more data is needed to really understand how the coronavirus attacks various cells in our body - including the ones that contribute to our sense of smell.
The study was published in the peer-reviewed journal "Science Advances."