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Corona detection through self-monitoring of the sense of smell

Scientists estimate that there are currently eight active strains of the virus in the world. In Prof. Sobel's laboratory, they believe that it is possible that the loss of the sense of smell is a differentiating indication between the different varieties. If indeed so, the SmellTracker will make it possible to geographically map the various outbreaks, not all of which affected the sense of smell

SmellTracker project logo. Courtesy of the Weizmann Institute
SmellTracker project logo. Courtesy of the Weizmann Institute

Not only fever, cough and shortness of breath - many corona (COVID-19) patients report on Temporary loss of the sense of smell. It appears that the loss of the sense of smell in COVID-19 is significantly greater in absoluteness and prevalence than a similar loss that sometimes occurs in the common cold, and rarely in the non-COVID-19 flu. In some countries, France for example, a patient who declares a sudden miscarriage will be diagnosed with corona - even without undergoing a test to detect the virus. A similar approach is being considered in the UK. Based on this data, Weizmann Institute of Science scientists, in collaboration with the Edith Wolfson Medical Center, developed the SmellTracker - an online platform that enables self-monitoring of the sense of smell, with the aim of locating corona cases in early stages of development or in the absence of other symptoms.

Prof. Noam Sobel's laboratory in the Department of Neurobiology at the institute specializes in the research of the sense of smell. The researchers in the laboratory previously developed a mathematical model for the precise characterization of each person's unique sense of smell, which constitutes a kind of "personal fingerprint". Based on this algorithm, the SmellTracker was developed - an online smell test that guides users on how to map their sense of smell using five smells found in every home (spices, vinegar, toothpaste, various scent extracts, peanut butter, etc.). The smell test takes about five minutes, and it makes it possible to monitor sudden changes in the perception of smell that may be an early indication of the development of COVID-19. The researchers report that the tool they developed has already successfully located possible cases of Corona which later turned out to be confirmed cases. Besides personal monitoring, as data accumulates in the database, researchers may characterize a unique fingerprint for early detection of COVID-19.

Eight strains of corona

In the epicenter of the first outbreak of the epidemic - the city of Wuhan in China - the loss of the sense of smell was not reported at all as a prominent symptom of COVID-19. However, from preliminary studies conducted in several places in the world, including Israel and Iran, it appears that this symptom appears in about 60% of patients. Scientists estimate that there are currently eight active strains of the virus in the world. In Prof. Sobel's laboratory, they believe that it is possible that the loss of the sense of smell is a differentiating indication between the different varieties. If indeed so, the SmellTracker will make it possible to map geographically the various outbreaks.

Besides the SmellTracker, Prof. Sobel's laboratory also distributes "itch and smell" kits among confirmed corona patients in an attempt to map the damage to their sense of smell. In addition, the researchers distribute A unique questionnaire for verified patients.

The project, which went live with the encouragement of the Ministry of Defense, will be officially promoted in the coming days in Sweden, France and other countries. The smell test is currently available in English, Hebrew and Arabic, and is also expected to be available in Swedish, French, Japanese, Spanish, German and Persian.

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