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Fribourg scientists develop olfactory test to detect Covid-19

Tuesday 5 May 2020


Researchers from the Swiss Integrative Center for Human Health and the University of Fribourg are conducting a study to determine whether the loss of taste and smell is a reliable biomarker of a Covid-19 infection.

Lavinia Alberi, a researcher at the Swiss Integrative Center for Human Health (SICHH) at BlueFactory, and Jean-Marie Annoni, a professor at the University of Fribourg, are jointly studying Alzheimer's disease, focusing in particular on certain early biomarkers of the disease, such as the loss of the sense of smell.

This symptom of anosmia is also observed in Covid-19 patients, which allowed the two neurologists to initiate a study on the subject. "The objective is to determine whether there is a strong link between this symptom and Covid-19," explains Lavinia Alberi. "Currently, the studies are very recent and the results are inconsistent."

A collaboration between various Fribourg institutions

The study is being conducted on patients at the HFR of Riaz, and consists of a questionnaire concerning sensations of loss of smell and taste, and, for some patients, an objective smell identification test. This test uses an existing standardized tool: a brief smell identification test.

The aim is to obtain 1,000 questionnaires and to carry out 200 to 300 objective tests, in particular thanks to the collaboration of TeamCovid and patients from the canton of Fribourg.

"We have been involved since the beginning of the crisis and we are learning as we go," explains Hoa Phong Pham Huu Thien, Deputy Physician in charge of answering Covid-19 questions, "we are very interested in this study.” The results of the Fribourg study are expected in three months.

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