Does phenotypic expression of bitter taste receptor T2R38 show association with COVID-19 severity?

Introduction: SARS-CoV-2 has been identified as the pathogen causing the outbreak of Coronavirus Disease 2019(COVID-19) commencing in Wuhan, China, in December 2019. Multiple reports have shown subjective loss of taste and smell as an early and hallmark symptom for COVID-19.

Method: A retrospective study was performed in our clinical practice during July 2020 on patients positive for SARS-CoV-2 via PCR. All patients were categorized into 3 groups (supertasters, tasters, & nontasters) via taste sensitivity to phenylthiocarbamide, thiourea, and sodium benzoate with taste strip testing. The results of the taste strip tests were correlated with clinical course.

Results: 100 patients (mean 51 [Range 24-82] years of age; 44 [44%] female) were assessed. Our results showed that 21/100 (21%) were non-tasters, 79/100 (79%) were tasters, and 0/100 (0%) were supertasters (p<0.001). 21/21 (100%) (p<0.001) of the patients requiring inpatient admission were classified as non-tasters. 79/79 (100%) (p<0.001) of the patients who displayed mild to moderate symptoms not requiring admission were classified as tasters.

Conclusion: Our results show objective data that taste disturbance, specifically global loss of taste, appears to correlate with the clinical course specific to each individual because 100% of the patients requiring inpatient admission were classified as non-tasters.

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alr.22692