Virus load and incidence of olfactory, gustatory, respiratory, gastrointestinal disorders in COVID-19 patients: A retrospective cohort study

Clin Otolaryngol. 2021 Nov;46(6):1331-1338. doi: 10.1111/coa.13844. Epub 2021 Aug 16.


Objectives: This study investigated the relationship between viral load and the incidence of olfactory and gustatory dysfunction (OD and GD), the incidence of respiratory and gastrointestinal symptoms and the recovery of OD and GD in COVID-19 patients.

Design: A retrospective cohort study.

Setting and participants: This study was conducted on 599 outpatients' cases in Golestan province between February and June 2020.

Main outcome measures: The incidence, severity (complete or partial) and recovery time of OD and GD and their associations with cycle threshold (CT) values of SARS-CoV-2 polymerase chain reaction were assessed.

Results: The mean age of patients was 38.27 ± 13.62 years. The incidence of general symptoms included myalgia 70.1%, headache 51.8%, fever 47.7% and dyspnoea 21.4%. 41.9% of patients had gastrointestinal symptoms, including abdominal pain 26.5%, diarrhoea 25.2%, nausea 20.5% and vomiting 12.9%. 12.2% of patients had comorbidity. The trimester recovery rates of OD and GD were 93.94% and 94.74% respectively. The mean recovery time of OD and GD was 14.56 ± 13.37 and 13.8 ± 3.77 days respectively. The mean CT value in all patients was 27.45 ± 4.55. There were significant associations between the mean of CT value with headache (p = 0.04), GD (p = 0.002) and OD (p = 0.001).

Conclusions: The finding of this study indicates a possible association between viral load with incidence of OD and GD in COVID-19 patient's cases and assures the recovery of OD/GD in these patients.

Keywords: COVID-19; gustatory disorders; olfaction disorders; taste disorders; viral load.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • COVID-19 / complications*
  • Female
  • Gastrointestinal Diseases / epidemiology*
  • Gastrointestinal Diseases / virology
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Iran / epidemiology
  • Male
  • Olfaction Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Olfaction Disorders / virology
  • Respiratory Tract Diseases / epidemiology*
  • Respiratory Tract Diseases / virology
  • Retrospective Studies
  • SARS-CoV-2
  • Taste Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Taste Disorders / virology
  • Viral Load*