Hyderabad: Researchers from the Hyderabad-based Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB) have unlocked the mystery behind the loss of sense of smell and taste, the two-key symptoms that went a long way in identifying the tell-tale signs of Covid-19 positive patients’ status.
In their latest study, researchers have showed that the genes associated with smell (olfactory) and taste (gustation) were suppressed, causing Covid positive patients to lose their senses of smell and taste.
Apart from the genes associated with smell and taste, the study also revealed that the functioning of genes related to many other important functions including respiration, cardiac, endocrine and neurology among Covid positive patients were also suppressed or lowered.
The research, which was published on September 21, in the prestigious open-access Wiley online journal, said that while the activity of genes related to body immunity and inflammation increased, the functioning of genes related to other body functions such as taste, smell, cardio and endocrine decreased.
As part of the study, the CCMB researchers investigated the genetic changes among 36 Covid-19 positive Indian patients during the first Covid wave against 5 Covid-19 negative samples. About seven patients were critical and required intensive care unit (ICU) intervention, while the rest had recovered and were discharged.
The loss of smell and taste is likely a consequence of the observed impairment of neurosensory perception pathways. “We also found robust activation of the innate immune response associated with a reduction in the gene expression profiles associated with cardiac, muscular, and neurological processes, as well as peripheral neurosensory markers,” the CCMB researchers said. The suppression or downregulation of a large proportion of sensory receptors, including olfactory and taste receptors, and associated pathways stands out as a major correlate of SARS-CoV-2 infection, scientists in the study said.
“In conclusion, we have documented significantly misregulated genes and associated pathways during SARS-CoV-2 infection in Indian patients. Our results highlight a commonly upregulated network of innate immune response genes and absence of hyper-inflammatory markers,” the CCMB researchers said. The geneticists said that such studies can help compare host responses in the current and subsequent waves of the pandemic across the globe and identify targets for monitoring and planning therapeutic approaches.
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