The SARS-CoV-2 virus causes COVID-19, and it is responsible for the largest pandemic since the 1918 H1N1 influenza outbreak. The classic symptoms of the disease have been well defined by the World Health Organization; however, olfactory/gustatory disorders have been reported in some studies, but there are still several missing points in the understanding and in the consensus about the clinical management of these cases.
To identify evidence in the scientific literature about olfactory/gustatory disorders, their clinical presentation, prevalence and possible specific treatments associated with COVID-19.
A systematic review of articles published up to April 25, 2020 was performed in Medline, Cochrane Clinical Trials, ScienceDirect, Lilacs, Scopus and Google Schoolar, OpenGrey.eu, DissOnline, The New York Academy of Medicine and Reasearch Gate.
(1) Studies on patients with COVID-19; (2) Records of COVID-19 signs/symptoms, and olfactory/gustatory functions.
(1) Studies on non-human coronavirus; (2) Review articles; (3) Experimental studies (in animals or in vitro); (4) Olfactory/gustatory disorders initiated prior to SARS-CoV-2 infection. The risk assessment of bias of the selected studies was performed using the Newcastle-Ottawa scale.
Six articles from the 1788 records met the inclusion criteria and were analyzed. A total of 1457 patients of different ethnicities were assessed; of them, 885 (60.7%) and 822 (56.4%) had smell and taste disorders, respectively, with women being most often affected. There were olfactory/gustatory disorders even without nasal obstruction/rhinorrhea and beginning even before the signs/symptoms of COVID-19; the recovery of smell/taste, when it occurs, usually happened in the first two weeks after COVID-19 resolution. There is evidence that olfactory/gustatory disorders are strong predictors of infection by SARS-CoV-2, and it is possible to recommend patient isolation, as early as of the medical consultation, preventing the spread of the virus. No scientific evidence has been identified for effective treatments for any of the disorders.
Olfactory/gustatory disorders may occur at varying intensities and prior to the general symptoms of COVID-19 and should be considered as part of the clinical features of COVID-19, even in mild cases. There is still no scientific evidence of specific treatments for such disorders in COVID-19 disease.