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Did you lose your taste with COVID? Doctors study why

Published: Feb. 22, 2022 at 6:07 PM CST
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AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - Loss of taste is a common symptom of COVID, but what about the people who never got their taste back?

Doctors at the Medical College of Georgia are studying taste buds to determine why we lose our taste and why some are still suffering through the symptom long after their recovery.

For 30 years, Lynnette McCluskey has studied how people can taste.

“There’s a great interest in finding out how taste buds regenerate,” said McCluskey, professor of neuroscience.

The pandemic is showing how important these studies are. MCG received a grant from the National Institute of Health to help understand why COVID causes people to lose their taste.

“It was really stunning in how many people are affected and how complete the taste loss is,” she said.

This is concerning for doctors because this can affect nutrition and quality of life.

“We have patients who have lost their sense of taste for over a year,” said McCluskey.

Taste buds are exposed to germs and bacteria. Taste buds regenerate, but when infected with COVID, sometimes they don’t.

“We’re not sure if the virus is directly infecting taste buds and infecting those taste buds and killing them or slowing their turnover or if it’s indirect and there’s inflammation in the surrounding tissue, and that’s affecting taste function,” she said.

Age, gender, and genes all affect how we taste everything, making it more complicated to study.

“Even the number of taste buds differ from person to person, over 100-fold between individuals. Some genes affect how we perceive taste,” she said.

Doctors say if you lose your smell, there are ways to train your brain to remember those smells for taste.

“We don’t know if there’s an equivalent to regaining taste at this point, so we have no strategies, showing how important this research is,” she said.

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