Publication date: Sep 05, 2023
Olfactory dysfunction (OD) commonly accompanies coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). We investigated the kinetics of OD resolution following SARS-CoV-2 infection (wild-type and alpha variant) and its impact on quality of life, physical and mental health. OD prevalence was assessed in an ambulatory COVID-19 survey (n = 906, ≥ 90 days follow-up) and an observational cohort of ambulatory and hospitalized individuals (n = 108, 360 days follow-up). Co-occurrence of OD with other symptoms and effects on quality of life, physical and mental health were analyzed by multi-dimensional scaling, association rule mining and semi-supervised clustering. Both in the ambulatory COVID-19 survey study (72%) and the observational ambulatory and hospitalized cohort (41%) self-reported OD was frequent during acute COVID-19. Recovery from self-reported OD was slow (survey: median 28 days, observational cohort: 90 days). By clustering of the survey data, we identified a predominantly young, female, comorbidity-free group of convalescents with persistent OD and taste disorders (median recovery: 90 days) but low frequency of post-acute fatigue, respiratory or neurocognitive symptoms. This smell and taste disorder cluster was characterized by a high rating of physical performance, mental health, and quality of life as compared with convalescents affected by prolonged fatigue or neurocognitive complaints. Our results underline the heterogeneity of post-acute COVID-19 sequelae calling for tailored management strategies. The persistent smell and taste disorder phenotype is characterized by good clinical, physical, and mental recovery and may pose a minor challenge for public health. ClinicalTrials. gov: NCT04661462 (survey study), NCT04416100 (observational cohort).
|Taste||Quality of life|