Examination of taste during the COVID epidemic using telemedicine
Dr Jan Vodička, University of Pardubice
Smell and taste disorders are early symptoms of COVID-19 in patients suffering from this illness. Patients can test their sense of smell by themselves; sense of taste has to be evaluated by an examiner. The self-administration method seems to be advantageous especially when the patient is infectious.
Current taste examination technologies do not take advantage of self-administration. In cases when patients can examine the sense of taste by themselves, no side differentiation is possible (meaning the ability to test sense of taste for the left and right side separately).
The ideal method for this purpose is a modification of the Taste strips test, which enables bilateral examination of taste using taste strips. The modification is based on an enlargement of taste strips and on the possibility to evaluate both sides of the tongue separately. Education and monitoring (e.g. video recording using a mobile phone) of the patient is necessary for correct evaluation of taste.
Technology solves two problems:
1. Examination will be performed by patients themselves using taste strips, which can stimulate one side or both sides of tongue (taste buds on papillae).
2. Video recording by a mobile phone or PC will be used to verify correct examination. The result of the test will not be valid in cases of incorrect examination.
The main benefit is the possibility to evaluate taste in patients during an epidemic. Taste impairment can indicate COVID-19. At the same time, the progression of taste dysfunction can be monitored. In cases of taste impairment, treatment can be offered.
The technology is available for further collaboration, development and licensing.
A pilot study was performed in the regional hospital in the Czech Republic in 2020. Series of samples were prepared and test version of application for self-examination of taste was created (for mobile phones and tablets).
Filing a utility model planned for 2022
The main goal of technology is to carry out wide testing of taste in patients suffering from COVID-19 and to determine the degree of taste deterioration. Examination and evaluation will be performed using telemedicine; no visit to a medical facility will be necessary.
So far, patients with taste disorders have not received much attention by physicians despite the fact that taste deterioration is present in facial nerve palsy (taste impairment is in correlation with deterioration of facial movement), in patients with Guillain-Barré syndrome (acute postinfectious polyneuritis) or in vitamin B12 deficiency. Smell deterioration is a possible complication of medical procedures (irradiation of oncological patients, nerve injury during middle ear surgery, tonsillectomy or dental procedures). The test will prove useful in many medical specialties (general practitioner, neurology, ENT, stomatology, oncology and others). The consequence of taste deterioration includes an increased intake of salt and sugar leading to a risk of hypertension or diabetes.