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Wednesday 15 April 2020 12:47pm

New Zealanders who have COVID-19 or are showing symptoms of the virus are being urged to participate in two surveys – a global and national one - that aim to better understand how COVID-19 impacts a patient's loss of taste and smell.

Recent anecdotal reports suggest one of the earliest signs of COVID-19 is a strongly diminished sense of smell, which then affects taste. This discovery has brought together more than 500 clinicians, neurobiologists, data scientists, cognitive scientists, sensory researchers and technicians from 38 countries to form the Global Consortium for Chemosensory Research (GCCR) to investigate further.

Massey University Fonterra-Riddet Chair of Consumer and Sensory Science Professor Joanne Hort, and Otago University Department of Food Science's sensory scientist Dr Mei Peng are leading New Zealand's involvement in the consortium and are urging people to participate.

“There are more than 1000 people who have been diagnosed with, or who have recovered from COVID-19 in New Zealand, which gives us a large number of people to reach. We are asking people to reach out to their families and friends to participate in the surveys, for the global fight against the virus,” says Professor Hort.

The data and insights from participants in New Zealand will contribute to building a global picture of the links between a person's loss of taste and smell, and the virus. The survey is being translated into 20 languages and the GCCR will use data collected to unravel the extent to which the virus affects our senses.

Professor Hort and Dr Peng are leading the second survey, a further piece of research in New Zealand only, which will delve deeper into the New Zealand COVID-19 cases from the global questionnaire. The additional questions will help uncover whether any reporting of smell-loss is related to an individual's physical and psychological traits.

The New Zealand survey asks participants to report their ability to smell common items around the home, including toothpaste, coffee and tea, to understand any effects on people's sense of smell, and what might be an early sign of infection.

Dr Peng's research has been focusing on links between human olfaction, brain function and health and she says smell loss is closely related to people's physical and mental wellbeing. “My team is fortunate to have the skills and experience to help during the challenging months ahead. I want to do something to help and make a difference during this pandemic, and I can do this with my expertise and being involved in this project.”

Professor Hort says being involved in a research project of this size and scale, and the pace in which it has come together, is unlike anything she has been involved in before. “This is a global crowd-sourced piece of research and to see so many people come together is truly humbling.”

If you are 18 years old or over, have COVID-19, or are showing symptoms, or know of someone else who is, please forward them these surveys:

  1. Global questionnaire:
  2. Additional NZ questionnaire:

For further information

Professor Joanne Hort

Dr Mei Peng

The Global Consortium of Chemosensory Researchers (GCCR) leadership team includes:

  • John Hayes, PhD, Penn State, USA
  • Thomas Hummel, MD, Technische Universität Dresden, Germany
  • Chrissi Kelly, Founder,, UK
  • Steve Munger, PhD, University of Florida, USA
  • Masha Niv, PhD, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel
  • Kathrin Ohla, PhD, Research Center Jülich, Germany
  • Valentina Parma, PhD, Temple University, USA
  • Danielle Reed, PhD, Monell Chemical Senses Center, USA
  • Maria Veldhuizen, PhD, Mersin University, Turkey

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