Is anosmia the price to pay in an immune-induced scorched-earth policy against COVID-19?
Med Hypotheses. 2020 May 26;143:109881
Authors: Le Bon SD, Horoi M
Since the outbreak of Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19), loss of smell has increasingly been reported as a frequent clinical sign. Understanding the underlying mechanism and the prognostic value of this symptom will help better manage patients. SARS-CoV-2, as SARS-CoV-1, may likely spread to the central nervous system (CNS) via the olfactory nerve, a known gateway for respiratory neurotropic viruses. We hypothesise that sudden loss of smell due to COVID-19 is the consequence of a protective host defence mechanism involving apoptosis of olfactory receptor neurons. Sacrificing smelling over neuroprotection is a logical strategy, even more so as olfaction is the only sense with the ability to regenerate in adults. Induced apoptosis of olfactory neurons has been shown in mice, successfully preventing neuroinvasion. On the other hand, adult olfactory neurogenesis has been shown to be regulated in part by the immune system, allowing to restore olfactory function. Understanding anosmia as part of a defence mechanism would support the concept of sudden anosmia as being a positive prognostic factor in the short term. Also, it may orient research to investigate the risk of future neurodegenerative disease linked to persisting coronavirus in neurons.
PMID: 32474381 [PubMed - as supplied by publisher]