Reduced olfactory bulb volume accompanies olfactory dysfunction after mild SARS-CoV-2 infection


Despite its high prevalence, the determinants of smelling impairment in COVID-19 remain not fully understood. In this work, we aimed to examine the association between olfactory bulb volume and the clinical trajectory of COVID-19-related smelling impairment in a large-scale magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) analysis. Data of non-vaccinated COVID-19 convalescents recruited within the framework of the prospective Hamburg City Health Study COVID Program between March and December 2020 were analyzed. At baseline, 233 participants underwent MRI and neuropsychological testing as well as a structured questionnaire for olfactory function. Between March and April 2022, olfactory function was assessed at follow-up including quantitative olfactometric testing with Sniffin’ Sticks. This study included 233 individuals recovered from mainly mild to moderate SARS-CoV-2 infections. Longitudinal assessment demonstrated a declining prevalence of self-reported olfactory dysfunction from 67.1% at acute infection, 21.0% at baseline examination and 17.5% at follow-up. Participants with post-acute self-reported olfactory dysfunction had a significantly lower olfactory bulb volume at baseline than normally smelling individuals. Olfactory bulb volume at baseline predicted olfactometric scores at follow-up. Performance in neuropsychological testing was not significantly associated with the olfactory bulb volume. Our work demonstrates an association of long-term self-reported smelling dysfunction and olfactory bulb integrity in a sample of individuals recovered from mainly mild to moderate COVID-19. Collectively, our results highlight olfactory bulb volume as a surrogate marker that may inform diagnosis and guide rehabilitation strategies in COVID-19.

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StatusVeröffentlicht - 11.06.2024