There is currently a wide range of RNA tests for detecting COVID-19 according to a new study by Sensonics International.

A news release from the company states “in light of strong evidence that decreased ability to smell accompanies this disease, it is partnering with many universities and agencies to provide self-administered smell tests to aid in early COVID-19 detection.”

Sensonics International reports it is the largest manufacturer of quantitative olfactory tests in the world.

In an international collaboration between the University of Pennsylvania Smell and Taste Center and the Masih Daneshvari Hospital in Tehran, Iran, scientists administered the Persian version of Sensonics’ 40-item Smell Identification Test (UPSIT) to 60 COVID-19 inpatients and 60 healthy controls.1 Remarkably, 59 of the 60 patients (98%) exhibited some degree of smell dysfunction, with over half having a total or near-total loss, the news release said.  The degree of dysfunction was uninfluenced by age, sex, disease severity, or comorbidities.

This pioneering peer-reviewed study provides the first solid scientific evidence of the influence of the SARS-CoV-2 virus on the ability to smell.  It strongly suggests that quantitative olfactory tests may be a useful, rapid, and inexpensive diagnostic means to aid in identifying patients with COVID-19 in the general population, according to the news release.

Indeed, the sensitivity and specificity of smell testing appear to rival or even exceed that of real-time PCR analyses in identifying COVID-19 patients.


1. Moein ST, Hashemian SMR, Mansourafshar B, Khorram-Tousi A, Tabarsi P, Doty RL.  Smell dysfunction: a biomarker for COVID-19.  International Forum of Allergy and Rhinology. 2020 Apr 17. doi: 10.1002/alr.22587. PMID: 32301284 [Epub ahead of print]

See also: Potter MR, Chen JH, Lobban NS, Doty RL. Olfactory dysfunction from acute upper respiratory infections: relationship to season of onset. International Forum of Allergy and Rhinology  2020 Apr 13. doi: 10.1002/alr.22551. PMID: 32282136 [Epub ahead of print].  This important paper suggests that the peak noted in patients presenting to a university-based smell and taste center with losses due to non-influenza post-(NI) viruses, including coronaviruses, occur in April, May, and June, and subside in August.

Source: Sensonics International