A new research focusing on loss of taste in patients diagnosed with the COVID-19. The researchers found that the coronavirus is able to infect cells in the mouth, thereby stimulating the spread of the virus both in the body and among other people. Oral tissues can be especially vulnerable to the SARS-CoV-2. The scientists studied the RNA, the genetic material that tells cell protein factories what to build and where. In the oral cavity, the presence of different types of cells was investigated.
It turned out that the cells of the salivary glands, tongue and tonsils carry the most RNA, which is associated with proteins necessary for the coronavirus to infect cells. They connect one of the receptors, it is ACE2, to which, in turn, the virus and the TMPRSS enzyme are added.
This enzyme arranges for the virus to interact with the cell membrane so that the virus can get inside. During the study, doctors took saliva samples from several COVID-19 patients and identified infected cells. The more such cells, the more likely the patient has lost taste and smell. A researcher Kevin Byrd noted that in the new study, they have identified a new route of infection, it is the mouth that serves as an incubator for the virus.
The infection can cause changes in the production or quality of saliva, and the person loses the taste. New research on the topic will help scientists to find out how this infection affects the course of the entire disease, as well as how the infected cells contribute to the spread of the coronavirus between people.
A professor Alessandro Villa from the University of California called the results of the study a discovery. By observing the presence of the virus in the salivary glands, it will be possible to make new predictions about the course of the disease.
And although only a few dozen people took part in the study and therefore the results are not entirely objective, the scientists intend to continue studying the coronavirus. For the simplicity of the method, they managed to create a new tool, an atlas of cells in the oral cavity that separates where the cells are located and what the RNA they contain.