Genetic variations linked to a higher likelihood of sensory loss during COVID-19 infection

Updated: Apr 26

Medical researchers have recently determined that people with a genetic variation on chromosome 4 have an elevated risk of sensory loss – losing their sense of taste or smell – during COVID-19 infection.

It's commonly known that one of the symptoms caused by COVID-19 is the loss of taste or smell. Not everyone infected experiences this sensory loss at the same level, and the loss seems to vary as far as how long it lasts. After analyzing available data of nearly 70,000 adults, scientists have concluded that the genetic variations in two genes – UGT2A1 and UGT2A2 – on chromosome 4 are likely linked to sensory loss during COVID-19 infection.

This conclusion comes from the results of a genome-wide association study (GWAS) of COVID-19-related sensory loss with available data on COVID-19 testing within the self-reported data from over 1 million people. Of the 68% of those who reported the loss of taste or smell as a symptom during their infection, there was an 11% higher likelihood of losing the ability to smell or taste among individuals with the genetic variation compared to people without such variations.

Since many people struggle to get their sense of taste and smell back fully or at all, such discoveries pinpointing the root cause of loss could help scientists parse out the ways to bring them back.

Read the full article from Nature here.