The Prevalence of Olfactory and Gustatory Dysfunction in COVID-19 Patients: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis

Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 2020 Jul;163(1):3-11. doi: 10.1177/0194599820926473. Epub 2020 May 5.


Objective: To determine the pooled global prevalence of olfactory and gustatory dysfunction in patients with the 2019 novel coronavirus (COVID-19).

Data sources: Literature searches of PubMed, Embase, and Scopus were conducted on April 19, 2020, to include articles written in English that reported the prevalence of olfactory or gustatory dysfunction in COVID-19 patients.

Review methods: Search strategies developed for each database contained keywords such as anosmia, dysgeusia, and COVID-19. Resulting articles were imported into a systematic review software and underwent screening. Data from articles that met inclusion criteria were extracted and analyzed. Meta-analysis using pooled prevalence estimates in a random-effects model were calculated.

Results: Ten studies were analyzed for olfactory dysfunction (n = 1627), demonstrating 52.73% (95% CI, 29.64%-75.23%) prevalence among patients with COVID-19. Nine studies were analyzed for gustatory dysfunction (n = 1390), demonstrating 43.93% (95% CI, 20.46%-68.95%) prevalence. Subgroup analyses were conducted for studies evaluating olfactory dysfunction using nonvalidated and validated instruments and demonstrated 36.64% (95% CI, 18.31%-57.24%) and 86.60% (95% CI, 72.95%-95.95%) prevalence, respectively.

Conclusions: Olfactory and gustatory dysfunction are common symptoms in patients with COVID-19 and may represent early symptoms in the clinical course of infection. Increased awareness of this fact may encourage earlier diagnosis and treatment, as well as heighten vigilance for viral transmission. To our knowledge, this is the first meta-analysis to report on the prevalence of these symptoms in COVID-19 patients.

Keywords: COVID-19; SARS-CoV-2; ageusia; anosmia; coronavirus; gustatory; olfactory.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Ageusia / epidemiology*
  • Ageusia / etiology
  • Ageusia / physiopathology
  • Betacoronavirus*
  • COVID-19
  • Coronavirus Infections / complications*
  • Global Health
  • Humans
  • Olfaction Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Olfaction Disorders / etiology
  • Olfaction Disorders / physiopathology
  • Pandemics*
  • Pneumonia, Viral / complications*
  • Prevalence
  • SARS-CoV-2
  • Smell
  • Taste