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A new study is shedding light on what may case some people to lose their sense of smell and taste after infection with COVID-19.

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The study, published in the journal Nature Genetics, found specific genes may explain why some people have lost their sense of taste or smell after getting sick.

The study found that 68% of people who self-reported having a positive COVID-19 test lost their sense of smell or taste, and that women were more likely to have the symptom than men. Scientists found that individuals of East Asian or African American ancestry were significantly less likely to lose their sense of taste or smell. The data was gathered in partnership with the genetics company 23andMe.

COVID-19 symptom study by National Content Desk on Scribd

“It was this really beautiful example of science where, starting with a large body of activated research participants who have done this 23andMe test, we were able to very quickly gain some biological insights into this disease that would otherwise be very, very difficult to do,” Adam Auton, vice president of human genetics at 23andMe and lead author of the study, told NBC News.

The study found that the fixed position of olfactory genes on a chromosome may play a role in determining who experiences the symptom, NBC News reported. “Early data suggests that supporting cells of the olfactory epithelium are the ones most easily being infected by the virus, and presumably this leads to the death of the neurons themselves. But we don’t really, really know why and when that happens, and why it seems to preferentially happen in certain individuals,” Dr. Justin Turney, a professor of otolaryngology not involved with the study, told NBC News.

How the genes may be involved in the process is still unclear, and further research needs to be done, NBC News reported.

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