Scientists at Ohio State University have discovered a sweet new way to detect COVID-19 in asymptomatic people.
According to a Jan. 26 press release, researchers have proposed using hard candy to screen for the loss of taste and smell in populations at risk for COVID-19 exposure.
The findings came after the research team was awarded $305,000 in National Institutes of Health funding to develop easily deployed strategies to identify people who could be infected with SARS-CoV-2.
Christopher Simons, associate professor of food science and technology at Ohio State, said in the release that while symptoms like fever, chills, a cough, and body aches vary widely among COVID-19 patients, an estimated 86% of people who test positive report a loss of smell. This, he said, makes loss of smell a strong predictor for contracting the virus, especially if it’s a sudden loss of smell.
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“Who doesn’t like candy? It’s an ideal stimulus because for this to work, people have to want to do it,” he said in a prepared statement.
Right now, a scratch-and-sniff card and the bitter medication quinine are used to screen for COVID-19.
As part of the second phase of their study, OSU researchers will follow about 2,800 people for 90 days. OSU students will be the primary recruitment target for the study. The participants will be asked to sniff and consume a piece of hard candy once per day and log into an app to report what they smell and taste. They’ll identify the flavor and also rate its intensity. If they report a sudden drop in either the ability to determine a flavor or its intensity, they’ll receive a message advising them to quarantine and get tested for COVID-19.
We’ll choose a piece of candy over sniffing quinine any day of the week.