Background: The purpose of this study was to compare the prevalence of olfactory dysfunction (OD) at different stages of the COVID-19 pandemic by evaluating subjects diagnosed with SARS-CoV-2 infection during the Omicron wave with psychophysical tests and comparing the results with those obtained from patients infected during the D614G, Alpha and Delta waves and with those of a control group.
Methodology: The study included adult patients diagnosed with SARS-CoV-2 infection. Depending on the time of diagnosis, the subjects were divided into four study groups: D614G; Alpha, Delta and Omicron variant groups. A group of uninfected individuals was used as control. All subjects underwent psychophysical evaluation of the olfactory function with the Connecticut Chemosensory Clinical Research Center olfactory test (D614G and Alpha groups) or the extended version of the Sniffin’Sticks test (Delta, Omicron and control groups).
Results: 372 cases (134 D614G group, 118 Alpha group, 32 in Delta group and 88 Omicron group) were recruited and evaluated within 10 days of infection, alongside 80 controls. Patients self-reported olfactory loss in 72.4% of cases in the D614G group, in 75.4% of cases in the Alpha group, in 65.6% of cases in the Delta group and in 18.1% in the Omicron group. Psychophysical evaluation revealed a prevalence of OD: 80.6%, 83.0%, 65.6% and 36.3% in the D614G, Alpha, Delta and Omicron group respectively. The differences between the D614G, Alpha and Delta groups were not statistically significant. The Omicron group demonstrated a significantly lower prevalence of OD than the other variants but still significantly higher than the controls.
Conclusions: During the Omicron wave OD was less prevalent than during the D614G, Alpha and Delta periods. One-third of patients have reduced olfactory function on psychophysical evaluation during the Omicron wave. Our results should be considered with caution as the VOC has not been determined with certainty.