Testing for Disease through Taste Impairment

27. 4. 2021

Researchers from the University of Pardubice have developed an unusual method that can also be used for self-testing for the coronavirus. The symptoms of some diseases, including COVID-19, include a complete or partial loss of smell and taste. A self-test linked to a mobile app could detect the disease at an early stage at the onset of taste impairment when other symptoms are absent.

“The senses of smell and taste interact very closely. Patients with impaired smell usually suffer from mild taste impairment. After COVID-19, some patients may suffer from the loss of smell and taste for a few days or weeks, but others for much longer,” says MUDr. Jan Vodička, Ph.D. of the Faculty of Health Studies. He is a physician who looks into methods for the detection of taste impairments.

The development of the taste self-testing kit has resulted from the cooperation of the Faculty of Health Studies, Faculty of Chemical Technology, Faculty of Electrical Engineering and Informatics of the University of Pardubice and the Pardubice Hospital. “Test strips are used to test for basic flavours - salty, sweet, bitter and sour. Each strip, made either of a filter paper or a film, has a layer of the flavour. The patients put the strip on the tongue and must say what flavour they taste,” says Jan Vodička.

The taste test could be used as a complementary method for testing COVID-19 patients. It is not meant to replace antigen or PCR testing. Nevertheless, it would make it possible to test gustatory functions not only in COVID-19 patients, but also in patients with neurological or metabolic diseases. The Centre for Technology and Knowledge Transfer of the University of Pardubice has already been involved in negotiations with pharmacies and pharmaceutical companies. Mr. Vodička’s team also plans to start cooperation with international partners from Dresden and Geneva.

Last year, Jan Vodička’s team received funding from the Technology Agency of the Czech Republic for a University of Pardubice proof-of-concept project entitled Telemedicine used for taste testing during the COVID outbreak. It is a part of the GAMA 2 Programme of applied research, experimental development and innovation.

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