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When Stavros Lomvardas came down with COVID-19 earlier this year, he monitored his symptoms closely. Lomvardas, a neuroscientist at Columbia University Irving Medical Center in New York City, had just wrapped up a study of how SARS-CoV-2 infections cause loss of smell1. “Quite frankly,” he says, “I was very curious to experience it.”
But Lomvardas didn’t get severely ill — and, unlike many who had COVID-19 at the start of the pandemic, his olfactory functions remained intact. He had no trouble enjoying food, gauging personal hygiene or engaging in other everyday activities that require smell.
Lomvardas probably contracted the Omicron variant: a form of SARS-CoV-2 that is often milder than variants such as Delta, and which affects smell in less than one-quarter of those infected. Yet, even as loss of smell — known as anosmia — becomes less common than it was earlier in the pandemic, “this doesn’t mean the problem is disappearing”, says Rafał Butowt, a neuroscientist at Nicolaus Copernicus University in Bydgoszcz, Poland.