Iravani B, Arshamian A, Ravia A, Mishor E, Snitz K, Shushan S, Roth Y, Perl O, Honigstein D, Weissgross R, Karagach S, Ernst G, Okamoto M, Mainen Z, Monteleone E, Dinnella C, Spinelli S, Mariño-Sánchez F, Ferdenzi C, Smeets M, Touhara K, Bensafi M, Hummel T, Sobel N, Lundström JN
Chem Senses 45 (6) 449-456 [2020-07-07; online 2020-05-22]
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, countries have implemented various strategies to reduce and slow the spread of the disease in the general population. For countries that have implemented restrictions on its population in a step-wise manner, monitoring of COVID-19 prevalence is of importance to guide decision on when to impose new, or when to abolish old, restrictions. We are here determining whether measures of odor intensity in a large sample can serve as one such measure. Online measures of how intense common household odors are perceived and symptoms of COVID-19 were collected from 2440 Swedes. Average odor intensity ratings were then compared to predicted COVID-19 population prevalence over time in the Swedish population and were found to closely track each other (r=-0.83). Moreover, we found that there was a large difference in rated intensity between individuals with and without COVID-19 symptoms and number of symptoms was related to odor intensity ratings. Finally, we found that individuals progressing from reporting no symptoms to subsequently reporting COVID-19 symptoms demonstrated a large drop in olfactory performance. These data suggest that measures of odor intensity, if obtained in a large and representative sample, can be used as an indicator of COVID-19 disease in the general population. Importantly, this simple measure could easily be implemented in countries without widespread access to COVID-19 testing or implemented as a fast early response before wide-spread testing can be facilitated.