Relationship between odor intensity estimates and COVID-19 prevalence prediction in a Swedish population

Behzad Iravani, Artin Arshamian, Aharon Ravia, Eva Mishor, Kobi Snitz, Sagit Shushan, Yehudah Roth, Ofer Perl, Danielle Honigstein, Reut Weissgross, Shiri Karagach, Gernot Ernst, Masako Okamoto, Zachary Mainen, Erminio Monteleone, Caterina Dinnella, Sara Spinelli, Franklin Mariño-Sánchez, Camille Ferdenzi, Monique SmeetsKazushige Touhara, Moustafa Bensafi, Thomas Hummel, Noam Sobel, Johan N. Lundström

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


In response to the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, countries have implemented various strategies to reduce and slow the spread of the disease in the general population. For countries that have implemented restrictions on its population in a stepwise manner, monitoring of COVID-19 prevalence is of importance to guide the decision on when to impose new, or when to abolish old, restrictions. We are here determining whether measures of odor intensity in a large sample can serve as one such measure. Online measures of how intense common household odors are perceived and symptoms of COVID-19 were collected from 2440 Swedes. Average odor intensity ratings were then compared to predicted COVID-19 population prevalence over time in the Swedish population and were found to closely track each other (r = −0.83). Moreover, we found that there was a large difference in rated intensity between individuals with and without COVID-19 symptoms and the number of symptoms was related to odor intensity ratings. Finally, we found that individuals progressing from reporting no symptoms to subsequently reporting COVID-19 symptoms demonstrated a large drop in olfactory performance.These data suggest that measures of odor intensity, if obtained in a large and representative sample, can be used as an indicator of COVID-19 disease in the general population. Importantly, this simple measure could easily be implemented in countries without widespread access to COVID-19 testing or implemented as a fast early response before widespread testing can be facilitated.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)449-456
Number of pages8
JournalChemical Senses
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 2020


  • Anosmia
  • COVID-19
  • Coronavirus
  • Olfactory dysfunction
  • Population prevalence


Dive into the research topics of 'Relationship between odor intensity estimates and COVID-19 prevalence prediction in a Swedish population'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this