Self‐reported olfactory and gustatory dysfunction and psychophysical testing in screening for COVID‐19: A systematic review and meta‐analysis Journal Articles uri icon

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  • AbstractBackgroundA substantial proportion of coronavirus disease‐2019 (COVID‐19) patients demonstrate olfactory and gustatory dysfunction (OGD). Self‐reporting for OGD is widely used as a predictor of COVID‐19. Although psychophysical assessment is currently under investigation in this role, the sensitivity of these screening tests for COVID‐19 remains unclear. In this systematic review we assess the sensitivity of self‐reporting and psychophysical tests for OGD.MethodsA systematic search was performed on PubMed, EMBASE, and from inception until February 16, 2021. Studies of suspected COVID‐19 patients with reported smell or taste alterations were included. Data were pooled for meta‐analysis. Sensitivity, specificity, and diagnostic odds ratio (DOR) were reported in the outcomes.ResultsIn the 50 included studies (42,902 patients), self‐reported olfactory dysfunction showed a sensitivity of 43.9% (95% confidence interval [CI], 37.8%‐50.2%), a specificity of 91.8% (95% CI, 89.0%‐93.9%), and a DOR of 8.74 (95% CI, 6.67‐11.46) for predicting COVID‐19 infection. Self‐reported gustatory dysfunction yielded a sensitivity of 44.9% (95% CI, 36.4%‐53.8%), a specificity of 91.5% (95% CI, 87.7%‐94.3%), and a DOR of 8.83 (95% CI, 6.48‐12.01). Olfactory psychophysical tests analysis revealed a sensitivity of 52.8% (95% CI, 25.5%‐78.6%), a specificity of 88.0% (95% CI, 53.7%‐97.9%), and a DOR of 8.18 (95% CI, 3.65‐18.36). One study used an identification test for gustatory sensations assessment.ConclusionAlthough demonstrating high specificity and DOR values, neither self‐reported OGD nor unvalidated and limited psychophysical tests were sufficiently sensitive in screening for COVID‐19. They were not suitable adjuncts in ruling out the disease.


  • Hoang, Minh P
  • Staibano, Phillip
  • McHugh, Tobial
  • Sommer, Doron
  • Snidvongs, Kornkiat

publication date

  • May 2022