Bengaluru based US researcher studying anosmia, Covid-19 link

Bengaluru, A city-based American researcher and a string of Indian institutes have joined forces with a team of 600 global researchers to poll a survey to determine the relationship between loss of smell (anosmia) and taste and the Covid-19 infection.

“We have formed a group of more than 600 clinicians, neurobiologists, data scientists, cognitive scientists, sensory researchers, and technicians from 50 countries to develop a common voluntary survey to determine if loss or change of smell or taste is a reliable symptom to indicate (Covid-19) infection,” Shannon B. Olsson, the city-based American researcher, told IANS.

Olsson, 42, is an associate professor at the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR), National Centre for Biological Sciences (NCBS), Bengaluru, who is spearheading the survey in India with six more key people from across the country.

The research group has already garnered 17,000 responses to their survey in other countries and is waiting for the first one in India.

The survey has been developed by doctors and scientists from the Global Consortium for Chemosensory Research and is supported by the Pennsylvania State University.

According to the experts carrying out the survey, several studies from China, Italy, the UK, Belgium, France, Spain and the US are showing a connection between changes in smell and taste and Covid-19.

“However, the rate of occurrence for loss of smell and taste varies widely in these studies, possibly because they used different methods. In addition, there are many factors that can affect smell and taste such as other diseases, medicines, lifestyle, genetics and environment, and these will also differ within and between countries,” said Olsson.

Complicating the understandings further, the Covid-19 virus is not same in all the countries and varies genetically in different regions, affecting the way how smell and taste senses are impacted in different places.

The Indian collaborators include TIFR, NCBS, TIFR-Hyderabad, Indraprastha Institute of Information Technology (IIIT), Delhi, Karunya Institute of Technology and Sciences, Central Scientific Instruments Organisation (CSIO) and Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), among others.

Olsson is a doctorate from the Cornell University and has been working in Bengaluru for the past six years.