(ORDO NEWS) — The COVID-19 virus causes loss of smell in some infected people, damaging not only tissues in the nasal cavity but also the area of the brain responsible for controlling the senses, a study published Monday in the journal JAMA Neurology found.
Autopsies of 23 patients who died from the virus found that those who experienced loss of smell had lesions in the white matter of the brain, the researchers said.
The white matter of the brain plays a key role in communication between the cells of the central nervous system, including those that control the senses, according to the National Library of Medicine.
Several patients included in this study also showed brain damage similar to those seen in people with Alzheimer’s disease, autopsy showed.
“COVID-19 not only affects the function of smell by infecting the cells lining the nasal cavity, but also causes significant damage in the area of the brain that controls smell,” study co-author Dr Cheng-Ying Ho told UPI via email.
“Because the virus does not attack nerve cells, tissue degeneration is either caused by inflammation or reduced blood supply due to vascular damage,” said Ho, assistant professor of pathology at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore.
According to research, about 2 million people in the US have experienced a long-term decline in their sense of smell due to COVID-19.
According to earlier studies, the deterioration of the sense of smell can negatively affect the quality of life by reducing appetite, among other problems.
About one in 10 people who lose their sense of smell after being infected with the virus that causes COVID-19 will experience this symptom for six months or more, according to the study.
After autopsy, the nose tissues and brains of these patients were compared with the tissues and brains of 14 other people who had died from causes unrelated to the virus, they said.
Five of the 23 patients with COVID-19 experienced a loss of smell, and another four experienced a “weakening” of their sense of smell before death, the researchers said.
Only one of these patients tested positive for the virus that causes COVID-19 at autopsy, and they are currently working on a study “to see if vaccination [against the virus] causes less loss of smell and less damage,” the researchers said. olfactory tissue.”
“I also hope this study can provide new insights into the use of anti-inflammatory drugs to treat COVID-related smell loss,” Ho said.
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