Scientists may be one step closer to explaining one distinctive COVID-19 symptom. A recent study suggests a genetic risk factor is linked to loss of taste or smell.
The journal of Nature Genetics published a study on Monday identifying a certain genetic risk factor that may be linked to the coronavirus symptoms of loss of taste and smell.
According to a previous study by JAMA Otolaryngology-Head & Neck Surgery, around 700,000 to 1.6 million U.S. residents suffering from COVID are estimated to lose or experience a change in sense of smell lasting over six months.
The underlying science behind the loss is still unclear. However, this new study suggests there could be a genetic link to the symptom.
The updated research was conducted by the genomics and biotechnology company 23andMe. Scientists collected data from almost 70,000 SARS-CoV-2 positive patients from both the U.S. and U.K.
Of those participating individuals who experienced COVID-19, just under 70 percent reported a loss of smell or taste as a symptom.
The latest study found additional trends in those with the symptom. Women were over 10 percent more likely to report this symptom than men. The findings stated, "individuals of East Asian or African American were significantly less likely to report loss of smell or taste."
The team compared genetic differences related to those infected by SARS-CoV-2 with and without a loss in taste and smell.
The study suggested a difference in a fixed location, or locus, on two olfactory genes, UGT2A1 and UGT2A2, which play a role in metabolizing odorants.
Those with the variant genes were found 11 percent more likely to experience loss of smell or taste.
The study suggests that the loss of smell is related to damage of human cell tissue inside the nasal cavity, which can completely inhibit the ability to smell.
How these two genes are involved in the olfactory sensation process remains unclear, but researchers believe UGT2A1 and UGT2A2 could impact the function of infected cells and result in loss of ability to smell.