Smell test may help spot COVID-19 cases

A scratch-and-sniff screening tool that identifies impaired sense of smell, a common symptom of COVID-19, could help quickly pinpoint cases, CBS News reports. 

Researchers from the University of Colorado in Boulder studied a smell test called U-Smell-It, which combines the use of a scratch-and-sniff card with different scents and an app where users input what they smelled. The app then alerts users if it detects an impaired sense of smell, indicating the need for a standard COVID-19 test. 

"Your ability to smell is lost in 80 percent of people with COVID-19," Roy Parker, PhD, a CU biochemistry professor who helped study the tool, told CBS. "But just 25 percent of people with the coronavirus run a fever and it only lasts a day or two, while people lose their sense of smell for a week or longer." 

Dr. Parker and team developed a mathematical model mirroring a college campus and found use of the smell test every three days identified more infections than using the standard polymerase chain reaction test once a week.

Derek Toomre, PhD, owner of U-Smell-It, applied for emergency approval from the FDA. If approved, the company could produce hundreds of millions of tests per week, Dr. Parker told CBS. 

More articles on public health:

Biogen conference linked to 330,000 COVID-19 cases 
COVID-19 death rates by state: Dec. 11
What the holiday season looked like during the 1918 flu pandemic 


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