10.06.2020 change 10.06.2020

Warsaw Finds New Taste Disorder Tests for Rapid Covid-19 Screening

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Rapid taste disorder tests for detecting people infected with SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus have been tested by specialists from the Ministry of Interior and Administration Hospital in Warsaw. Taste disorders are among the most common symptoms of early stage Covid-19 disease.

Head of Internal Medicine at the hospital Professor Edward Franek told PAP that the test was developed in the course of research on taste disorders in the early stage of Covid-19. It had been known that such disorders occurred, but not which flavours they affected. Four flavours were assessed during the study: sweet, salty, sour and bitter. It turned out that the sweet taste was primarily impaired.

Professor Franek said: “Most people don't realize that Covid-19 is associated with taste disorders. The test helps to make the tested person aware of disorders that may be evidence of an early stage of Covid-19.

“This test can be used to screen for this disease. In the event of a positive result, a confirmatory molecular coronavirus test (in RT-PCR technology) must still be performed.”

Studies published so far show that taste and smell disturbances are among the symptoms of SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus infection. In the UK, they have been included in the diagnosis of early Covid-19 along with fever and cough. But they do not occur in all those infected. 

Dr. Paweł Grzesiowski, President of the Institute of Infections Prevention Foundation, said: “On average, the frequency of this symptom is approx. 50-55 percent patients.”

He added that sensitivity and specificity of the screening test is important to determine how many people with the infection have negative and false negative results, and how often positive and false positive results occur in people without infection.

The Warsaw taste tests were carried out on 88 volunteers from the Warsaw School of Fire Service where an outbreak of the virus had been detected. The tests showed that 52 were diagnosed with infection, 36 uninfected.

Co-creator of the test, Dr. Kamil Adamczyk from the Department of Anaesthesiology and Intensive Care at the Ministry of Interior and Administration Hospital in Warsaw, said: “The procedure is quick and simple. Patients receive a flavouring substance at a concentration determined in clinical trials, which they place on the tongue. The subjects say whether they feel the taste or not, and then complete a questionnaire.”

Professor Franek added that by combining the test with a simple questionnaire that includes three questions about the test subject's taste, smell or fever disorders increases sensitivity to 94%.

In comparison, PSA tests for prostate cancer have much lower sensitivity of 33 percent.

PAP - Science in Poland

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