A crowdsourced survey of 4,039 Covid-19 patients from more than 40 countries provides the greatest evidence thus far of the link between infection with the novel coronavirus and the loss of smell and taste.

Patients also reported losing chemesthesis, the ability to perceive cooling, tingling and burning sensations from stimulants such as chili peppers and menthol.

These findings could help healthcare workers distinguish Covid-19 patients from those with common viral infections such as the cold or flu, and help prioritize the limited supply of Covid-19 tests.

The Global Consortium for Chemosensory Research (GCCR) launched the ongoing survey on April 7 and published initial results May 8 on the medRxiv preprint server for health sciences.

“Our findings show that Covid-19 broadly impacts chemosensory function and is not limited to smell loss, and that disruption in these functions should be considered a possible indicator of Covid-19,” said consortium member and co-author Prof. Masha Niv, vice dean at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem’s Faculty of Agriculture, Food and Environment.

Based on survey answers from around the world, the GCCR found that smell, taste and chemesthesis are significantly reduced during the illness even though patients don’t report a stuffy nose. That will help distinguish Covid-19 infection from other viral infections.

Funded by Penn State University, the survey is available in 27 languages, including English, French, Spanish, German, Italian, Japanese, Arabic, Norwegian, Spanish, Swedish and Turkish. At present, over 30,000 responses have been crowdsourced through traditional print, television, radio and social media.

“What’s needed to fight a global pandemic is a global approach. We’ve harnessed scientists, clinicians and patients from around the world to give us a better understanding of the disease’s impact on various populations and to provide us with significant clues towards better diagnosis and treatment of the Covid-19 disease,” said Niv.

To participate in the survey, click here.