What’s up with Covid messing with people’s sense of smell and taste?

Shot of a young woman smelling a flower while wearing a surgical mask

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Shot of a young woman smelling a flower while wearing a surgical mask

Shaina Samet, Writer

Covid-19 has been affecting the world since early 2020 and there are some not so fun symptoms that come with. The loss of taste and smell seems to be the one that is least threatening while still being the most annoying due to its long term effects. Tik tok has helped show us the funnier side of the loss of these senses with a trend of people smelling/tasting different ‘beverages’ and attempting to guess. Most of the victims of this trend end up drinking things like straight vinegar and saying it tastes slightly sour. But what is the real reason you can’t taste and smell right after Covid kicks you to the curb.


It’s your genetics, recently researchers have found that around 70,000 adults that have contracted Covd-19 and that have a slight mutation on chromosome 4 are more susceptible to this symptom. According to researchers report January 17th Nature Genetics “11 precent more likely to lose the ability to smell or taste than people without the changes”. The data used to collect this information comes from people who have used the 23andMe genetic testing company to analyze their DNA and have had self reported cases of Covid. So make sure to let your parents know that they are the reason you can’t taste your dinner or smell your favorite candle. But the true science behind all this lies in the genes on chromosome 4.


An epidemiologist at 23andMe, Janie Shelton has found that there are two genes UGT2A1 and UGT2A2 that reside in chromosome 4. There is a region of this chromosome that is often affected during Covid where the two genes reside and it is linked to sensory loss. The infection takes hold in your sustentacular cell which is your smell-supporting cell and that’s why you lose your senses. “It’s possible that the genetic variants near UGT2A1 and UGT2A2 could affect how the two genes are turned on or off to somehow mess with smell during an infection” , Shelton says. Though it is unsure if the loss of taste is more prevalent than the loss of smell, both the senses are very dependent on each other so if you lose one the other is diminished as well. Some people are still suffering from the loss of their smell and taste even after Covid has gone away, but with more genetic testing and as researchers learn more about Covid we can hope to find ways that help bring them back.