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Novel Capsule-Based Smell Test Could Help Diagnose COVID-19 in Broader Population

By LabMedica International staff writers
Posted on 29 Apr 2021
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Image: The novel capsule-based smell test (Photo courtesy of Queen Mary University of London)
Image: The novel capsule-based smell test (Photo courtesy of Queen Mary University of London)
A new smell test has been found to be easy to use in patients with Parkinson’s disease, and could also be helpful in diagnosing COVID-19 in the broader population.

The novel smell testing kit developed by researchers at Queen Mary University of London (London, UK) uses capsules of aromatic oils placed between two strips of single-sided tape. To take the smell test, the capsules are simply crushed between the fingers and the tape strip peeled to release the aroma contained within the capsules. Based on a person’s ability to recognize these smells, a score would be generated that can be sent to their GP if they are experiencing a loss of smell.

In their study, the researchers showed that in a small group of eight patients with Parkinson’s disease, the smells from the tests were detectable. The participants also cited the relative ease process of rupturing the capsules, particularly for those with tremors, compared to the standard scratch and sniff smell test available on the market.

“Our capsule-based smell test can assist in the rapid diagnostic of various diseases linked to the loss of smell. These include chronic neurological conditions such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease, as well as COVID-19, which is known to affect the sense of smell,” said lead researcher Dr. Ahmed Ismail from Queen Mary’s School of Engineering and Materials Science. “Being non-invasive and less stressful, the capsule-based smell test has benefits over the nose swab in diagnosing COVID-19.”

Dr. Ismail added: “Most of the smell tests on the market depend on using paperboard items treated with a fragrant coating called scratch and sniff, in which you need to scratch a card to release the odor. The problem with this approach is that the amount of odor released depends on the extent to which the individual scratches, something that might affect the outcome of the test.

“Our capsule-based smell test doesn’t have this problem because the amount of odor released is controlled by the amount of oil precisely encapsulated. The mass-production of our new test would also be cheaper than a scratch and sniff test.”

Related Links:
Queen Mary University of London

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