In a new study, scientists at King's College London claim that losing the sense of smell and taste could be one of the strongest possible symptoms of COVID-19, a respiratory illness caused by a novel coronavirus. The researchers concluded the study using data collected by their newly launched COVID Symptom Tracker App.

According to BBC, the team of researchers behind the popular coronavirus app in the UK analysed responses from more than 400,000 people using the app. The app that was launched last week for iPhone and Android phone users in the UK urges users to report themselves even if they feeling well.

Created by doctors and scientists at King's College London, Guys and St Thomas' Hospitals working in partnership with ZOE, the app aims to study the symptom of COVID-19, a pandemic that started in December 2019 in Wuhan, China. There is still no vaccine or cure for the disease.

In an attempt to understand the disease better and eventually prevent its spread, the research aims at understanding the symptoms, the hotspots for the virus, risk areas, and who is more vulnerable to the infection.

As per the report, fever and cough are some of the most common symptoms to look out for in suspected coronavirus patients. However, loss of smell and taste could also be strong indicators. However, these are also said to be the symptoms of other respiratory infections.

As per the findings reported by the aforementioned publication, 53 percent experienced tiredness and fatigue, 29 percent had a persistent cough, 28 percent suffered shortness of breath, 18 percent experienced loss of sense of smell or taste, and 10.5 percent suffered fever.

Among 400,00 people using the app, 1,702 were tested for COVID-19. Out of which, 579 were tested positive and 1,123 were tested negative. And 59percent of those who tested positive for coronavirus, complained of loss of smell and taste.

As per the symptoms of COVID-19 by WHO, the list includes fever, tiredness, dry cough, shortness of breath, aches, pains, sore throat, and diarrhoea, nausea and runny nose, among others. The report suggests that the experts do not believe there is enough evidence yet for loss of smell and taste. Nevertheless, these symptoms when combined with other common symptoms for the virus are deemed important to watch out for.

"When combined with other symptoms, people with loss of smell and taste appear to be three times more likely to have contracted COVID-19 according to our data, and should, therefore, self-isolate for seven days to reduce the spread of the disease," said the lead researcher of the study Prof. Tim Spector.

ExCel centre in London turns into hospital
Members of the military and private contractors help to turn the ExCel centre in London into a field hospital to be known as the NHS Nightingale, to help with the COVID-19 pandemic. Photo: POOL / Stefan Rousseau

Meanwhile, Metro notes that last week WHO's Dr Maria Van Kerkhove said that there were "quite a few" people who reported the loss of smell and taste at the early stages of the infection. However, she believes that "this is something that we need to look in to, to really capture to see whether this is one of the signs of COVID-19."