UM Campus Venlo participates in study on loss of smell and taste with corona
Is loss of smell and taste a useful indicator for the early diagnosis of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus? This question is the focus of research by the Global Consortium of Chemosensory Research (GCCR), an international consortium of more than 600 doctors and scientists, one of them working at UM Campus Venlo. The organisation is calling on people who may be infected with the virus to complete an online questionnaire about their symptoms. A Dutch version is available from today.
Loss of smell and taste have been identified by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Dutch National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM) as possible symptoms of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus. Patients sometimes say that their sense of taste is reduced, according to various small-scale studies by doctors. However, there are no reliable figures yet on how often these symptoms occur, and at what stage of the disease. It is also unclear which sensory system the virus affects: the sense of smell in the nose, or the taste buds on the tongue.
Collecting data worldwide
The Global Consortium of Chemosensory Research (GCCR) aims to provide answers by gathering data uniformly worldwide on the symptoms of anyone who may have had corona in the past two weeks. ‘This is important research because it might be possible to use loss of smell and taste for the early detection or diagnosis of corona,’ says Mirjam van den Brink, PhD candidate at Maastricht University's campus in Venlo and the Princess Máxima Center for pediatric oncology. ‘This will enable people to self-isolate sooner, and if they go to hospital, their possible infection can already be taken into account.’ In daily practice, Van den Brink specialises in changes in smell and taste in children with cancer, but she has joined the GCCR to contribute to this study.
The GCCR is calling on anyone who thinks they have had corona in the past two weeks to complete the questionnaire. The survey contains questions like ‘Do you experience chili pepper as being more or less spicy?’, ‘Does rubbish smell less bad than normal?’ and ‘Have you been diagnosed with corona by your GP?’. Respondents are also asked whether they suffer from other conditions that may be associated with loss of smell and taste, such as hay fever or diabetes; this is to confirm that the symptoms are actually caused by the corona virus.
The questionnaire takes about 10 minutes to complete and will ultimately be available in more than 20 languages, including Dutch, at https://sites.google.com/view/gcchemosensr/. The questions can also be accessed on smartphones via a QR code. Before the summer, the questionnaire will be supplemented by a home test; people will be able use products from their kitchen or bathroom cupboards to assess whether their sense of smell or taste has improved or worsened.
Global Consortium of Chemosensory Research (GCCR)
The Global Consortium of Chemosensory Research (GCCR) is made up of more than 600 scientists, neurobiologists, data specialists, cognitive experts, sensory researchers and technicians from over 50 countries. As well as Maastricht University, participants in the Netherlands include Wageningen University & Research, Utrecht University, the Netherlands Olfactory Science Exchange (NOSE) network, ENT doctors from hospitals including Gelderse Vallei Hospital, and various patient associations (HungerNdThirst Foundation and the smell and taste disorder association reuksmaakstoornis.nl).
Demissionary Minister of Education, Culture and Science Ingrid van Engelshoven will open ETpathfinder in Maastricht this afternoon. The state-of-the-art physics laboratory will serve as a testing ground for the development of technologies for future gravitational wave detectors.
UM President Martin Paul received the badge of honour ('erespeld) of the city of Venlo on 7 September from Mayor Scholten.