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Medicine and Life Sciences

Medical Student Finds Artistic Inspiration During Anatomy Class

Fourth-year medical student Meghan Lark is at the intersection of art and medicine.

“I’ve loved art and drawing my whole life, but I didn’t really know how I was going to integrate it into my future career as a physician,” Lark said.

Lark

It was during her second year of medical school that inspiration came while taking her anatomy course.

“I fell in love with anatomy and realized that it was much easier to learn if I drew it out,” she said.

Lark has been sharing her drawings on Twitter and has caught the eye and appreciation of fellow students and others in the medical profession.

Her artwork recently was featured on Twitter as part of #AnatomyMonday by the American Association of Clinical Anatomists, which promotes clinical anatomy knowledge and services in education, research and scholarship.

“We stumbled upon her beautiful anatomical drawings on Twitter recently and they are a must-see,” the tweet read.

Lark said she started keeping anatomy journals to reference while studying, which eventually turned into drawing anatomy as a hobby.

“In the future, I plan to become a surgeon and continue to develop drawings to help educate medical students and explain surgical procedures to my patients,” she said.

Drawings by fourth-year medical student Meghan Lark are receiving widespread attention.

Women’s Mentoring Network to Host Giving Yourself Grace Panel Discussion

The University of Toledo’s Women’s Mentoring Network is hosting a panel discussion about how to survive and thrive in this new reality.

The virtual event titled Giving Yourself Grace in Uncertain Times will take place noon to 1p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 16 on WebEx. RSVP by completing the webform on the Women’s Mentoring Network webpage. Participants will receive a confirmation email with a link to access the event.

Infographic with Giving Yourself Grace date and time informationThe discussion aims to address feelings of being overwhelmed and stressed by providing practical advice to achieve a new sense of balance to reach your goals and promote overall well-being. Participants will learn about resources and strategies for managing stress, practicing self-care, and navigating the blurred lines between work and home in the age of COVID-19.

Dr. Linda A. Lewandowski, vice provost for health affairs for interprofessional and community partnership, and dean of the College of Nursing, will moderate the event.

Panel participants will be:

• Dr. Tameaka Gray El, assistant professor in the College of Nursing;

• Rachael Decker, associate director of programs and assessments for the Office of Recreational Services;

• Dr. Amy Riese, assistant professor Department of Psychiatry in the College of Medicine and Life Sciences; and

• Sandra Bishop, a representative with IMPACT Solutions.

This event is co-sponsored by UToledo’s Catharine S. Eberly Center, Office of the Provost, College of Nursing and Rocket Wellness.

For more information, contact the Catharine S. Eberly Center for Women at 419.530.8570 or ecwomen@utoledo.edu.

Hypertension Researcher Earns Prestigious NIH Award

A hypertension researcher in The University of Toledo College of Medicine and Life Sciences has received a prestigious career development grant from the National Institutes of Health.

Dr. Cameron McCarthy, a postdoctoral to faculty fellow, is one of a small number of researchers in the country to receive the NIH Pathway to Independence Award (K99/R00). The grant is meant to transition promising postdocs into independent, tenure-track faculty members.

McCarthy, who joined the College and Medicine and Life Sciences in 2018, is focused on the connection between hypertension and premature aging of the vascular system.

Cameron McCarthy and Jonnelle Edwards in lab

Dr. Cameron McCarthy, a postdoctoral to faculty fellow in the College of Medicine and Life Sciences, works in the lab with Jonnelle Edwards, a Ph.D. student in the molecular medicine track. McCarthy recently received the National Institutes of Health Pathway to Independence Award.

“Hypertension is a major risk factor for some of the leading causes of death worldwide,” McCarthy said. “I promote the idea that arteries and vasculature from young people with hypertension look like arteries and vasculature from older people. There are things going on in hypertension that cause the arteries to age much more quickly than they should.”

More than 100 million Americans have high blood pressure, but only about a quarter of those individuals have their blood pressure under control.

McCarthy’s work is aimed at better understanding the mechanisms of why people develop high blood pressure and establishing novel therapeutics to treat the condition. Specifically, he’s studying how autophagy — the body’s natural process for recycling old and damaged cellular components — decreases in individuals with hypertension.

“When autophagy goes down, all of a sudden that cellular recycling doesn’t work as well. You have a buildup of damaged cargo sitting there in the cell causing dysfunction,” he said.

McCarthy is examining whether increasing autophagy in the liver can stimulate the body’s production of beta hydroxybutyrate — a chemical that may encourage the dilatation of blood vessels to lower blood pressure and decrease the premature aging associated with hypertension.

One of McCarthy’s mentors at UToledo is Dr. Bina Joe, Distinguished University Professor and chair of the Department of Physiology and Pharmacology. Joe was the first researcher to explore beta hydroxybutyrate as a potential weapon against high blood pressure.

Dr. Matam Vijay-Kumar, professor in the Department of Physiology and Pharmacology, is also mentoring McCarthy as part of the NIH grant.

The NIH Pathway to Independence Award provides up to five years of support, beginning with a two-year mentored research and career development phase. The final three years of support are contingent on the recipient securing an independent tenure-track research position.

“We are thrilled about this because it matches what we created with our Postdoctoral to Faculty Fellow position,” Joe said. “The cream of the crop among postdocs get these grants. Cameron is a brilliant guy — very organized, focused, knows what he wants to do, and works toward it. He’s passionate about what he does in the lab.”

Dialogue on Diversity to Address Impact of COVID-19 on Black and Brown Communities

The University of Toledo is continuing its Dialogues on Diversity series with a conversation on how the ongoing global pandemic is impacting underrepresented minorities.

The next virtual town hall in the series titled “The Impact of COVID-19 in Black and Brown Communities” will take place 5:30 p.m. Thursday, July 23, and can be accessed on WebEx using the access code 303401. The event password is DoD4:COVID.

The discussion on the disparate impact of COVID-19 in African American and Hispanic communities and strategies to keep safe will be moderated by Dr. Sammy Spann, UToledo associate vice president and dean of students.

Participants will be:

• Dr. Brian Dolsey, ProMedica cardiologist;

• Gwen Gregory, director of nursing and health services at the Toledo Lucas County Health Department;

• Louis Guardiola, associate lecturer and assistant dean for diversity and inclusion in the UToledo College of Health and Human Services;

• Gabriel Lomeli, assistant director of undergraduate admission at UToledo;

• Jason Wanamaker, fourth-year medical student at UToledo; and

• Dr. Celia Williamson, UToledo Distinguished University Professor and director of the Human Trafficking and Social Justice Institute.

This is the fourth in a series of recent virtual Dialogues on Diversity following the police killing of George Floyd in Minnesota that sparked protests against systemic racism across the country.

UToledo is a community that celebrates and respects people of all backgrounds and experiences. As an institution, we remain committed to building an inclusive environment free of racism, sexism, bigotry and other negative influences.

UToledo Dean Elected Chair of Statewide Medical School Alliance

Dr. Christopher Cooper, dean of The University of Toledo College of Medicine and Life Sciences, has been selected as the chair of the Ohio Council of Medical School Deans.

The group is an alliance of Ohio’s seven medical colleges — UToledo along with Case Western Reserve University, University of Cincinnati, Northeast Ohio Medical University, Ohio State University, Ohio University and Wright State University.

Christopher Cooper

Cooper

The council works to improve health outcomes across the state by emphasizing innovation in education and patient care, as well as improving access to quality healthcare for Ohio’s underserved populations.

Dr. Andrew Filak Jr., dean of the University of Cincinnati School of Medicine, will serve alongside Cooper as vice chair.

“Dr. Filak and I look forward to ongoing collaboration with our colleagues around the state as we continue to operate at the forefront of research and innovation, shaping the next generation of medical professionals and ensuring access to quality healthcare for all Ohioans,” Cooper, executive vice president for clinical affairs and vice provost for educational health affairs, said.

Cooper has a one-year term, running through June 2021.

UToledo Medical Students Create Program to Assist Healthcare Community During Pandemic

For Sara Shafqat, peace of mind is everything.

The second-year resident in internal medicine at ProMedica Toledo Hospital has been treating coronavirus patients since the onset of the pandemic earlier this year. For Shafqat and many in the health professions, this has meant longer hours and the fear of bringing the virus home; her husband also works tirelessly as an attending physician at The University of Toledo Medical Center, and they have two young sons.

Fortunately, a group of proactive students at The University of Toledo’s College of Medicine and Life Sciences are supporting healthcare workers and others in the community through the recently created UTCOMCares program, which provides volunteer assistance with child care, groceries, pet sitting and other basic needs.

Christian Carwell and Joshua Posadny pet sitting

Christian Carwell, left, and her husband, Joshua Posadny, assisted UTMC anesthesiology resident Kevin Lee by pet sitting during the COVID-19 pandemic as part of the UTCOMCares program.

“It’s been a very stressful time, both physically and mentally. Especially since the boys were home schooling and our regular babysitter wasn’t available,” said Shafqat. “I never imagined the students’ help would have been so valuable. They were energetic, my sons had a wonderful time with them, and they really started looking forward to their time together.”

UTCOMCares was born from a natural urge of anyone entering the medical field: the desire to help. In March, UToledo medical students were dismissed from their clinical rotations as part of campus-wide precautions against the spread of COVID-19. That left a group of them with a combination of time, opportunity and sense of urgency.

“It’s hard to hear that the best thing for everyone is to step away,” said Christian Carwell, a fourth-year medical student specializing in emergency medicine. “We all come to medical school for different reasons, but we love Toledo and wanted to help in any way possible.”

UTCOMCares, together with the UToledo Geriatrics Club, is piloting a program with residents at The Laurels of Toledo, a skilled nursing and rehabilitation center. The students send handwritten notes and create art projects for those who may be struggling with loneliness or depression after social distancing guidelines have prevented them from visiting with family.

“The residents’ biggest need is to be with their families. They miss them so much,” said Page Rostetter, recreation services director at The Laurels. “We are providing opportunities to FaceTime, Zoom and do window visits, but it’s not the same. The students have provided a great connection, and it gives residents something to look forward to during the day.”

Angie Jacob, a fourth-year medical student specializing in physical medicine and rehabilitation, helped spearhead UTCOMCares.

“This is certainly a confusing stage of our medical careers and is filled with many mixed emotions. We felt helpless,” said Jacob. “We began this journey in the hopes of helping those in need, so we are choosing to attend to the ‘little’ things so our colleagues, teachers and mentors can focus on the greater good.”

Kevin Lee, a resident in anesthesiology at UTMC, worked in the COVID intensive care unit for several weeks.

“Witnessing the severity of the virus was difficult to cope with,” said Lee. “I just got a new puppy, so the students helped out with pet sitting. I’m truly grateful and appreciative of them being able to take care of Zoey when I was not able to during the pandemic.”

“When you are treating patients, you have to be totally focused on what you’re doing. It’s devastating to have to worry about what’s happening at home, too,” said Shafqat. “Feeling that peace of mind was a great help. We’re so proud of what the students are doing.”

UTCOMCares continues its outreach and assistance in the Toledo community. If you are a student in the health sciences and wish to volunteer, complete the online form. Healthcare workers in need of assistance also can complete the request form.

UToledo College of Medicine and Life Sciences, TPS to Host Virtual Discussion July 1 About Navigating Social Injustice Amidst COVID-19

The University of Toledo College of Medicine and Life Sciences Office of Diversity and Inclusion and Toledo Public Schools Office of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion will hold a virtual roundtable titled “Navigating Social Injustices Amidst a Pandemic: Open Roundtable Discussion” Wednesday, July 1, from 5 to 6 p.m. on WebEx.

Register for and access the free, public event on the College of Medicine and Life Sciences website.

“This is an opportunity for members of the College of Medicine and Life Sciences to engage with the community and show support for Toledo Public Schools, students and parents. This aligns with our mission to serve the needs of our community outside the walls of our institution,” said Dr. Kimberly Jenkins, associate dean of diversity and inclusion in the UToledo College of Medicine and Life Sciences, and a moderator of the event.

“We aim to continue the dialogue surrounding social injustice and the protests related to recent police killings, as well as discuss meaningful ways to support our young people in coping with these crises. Dealing with the tragic events of this year in the midst of a pandemic has been especially traumatic. Through this event and upcoming collaborations, we hope to strengthen our support for Toledo-area youth and their families and assure them they won’t face these challenges alone.”

Panelists include:

• Bro. Washington Muhammad, co-founder of the Community Solidarity Response Network;

• Dr. Darren Gordon, UToledo M.D./Ph.D. candidate and former national speaker of the house for the Student National Medical Association; and

• Ashley Futrell, attorney and community advocate.

Moderators will be Jenkins, Dr. Treva Jeffries, assistant transformational leader of equity, diversity and inclusion at Toledo Public Schools, and Dr. Hope Bland, administrator in the Office of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion at Toledo Public Schools.

“The objective of this event is to provide support to our students and staff around the current social unrest while coping with the ongoing pandemic,” Jeffries said. “By including panelists from various fields, a wealth of knowledge will be gained in preparation for a successful transition into the new school year. I am confident that the panelists will provide valuable insight as to how participants can effectively work to eradicate racism in their own space.”

The UToledo College of Medicine and Life Sciences has a dedicated partnership with Toledo Public Schools, including pipeline programs that provide mentoring, bring students on campus, give them support and tools for success on college admissions and academic and professional development.

UToledo Students Examine Human Consumption in International Biodesign Challenge Summit 2020

Four University of Toledo students have teamed up to critically investigate the behaviors of human consumption. Their project is competing in the international Biodesign Challenge Summit 2020, held virtually this year due to the COVID-19 crisis.

The competition is being held online June 15-19, but the video presentations are available for view anytime. Winners will be announced June 19 on the Biodesign Challenge Summit website.

The UToledo project, “Wastr: Reassessing Our Trash,” was the brainchild of students Jarrett Cunningham, who graduated with a bachelor of arts degree in film and video in May; Madalyn Jones, a senior majoring in environmental science; Michael Miller, a bioengineering major with an economics minor; and Mohamed Nawras, who received a bachelor of science degree in biology in 2018 and is a doctor of medicine candidate for fall 2020.

The team developed a presentation highlighting the paradox of creating an eco-friendly product that adds to consumptive behaviors. The ultimate goal is to get people to become more aware of the amount of waste they personally generate.

A video presentation of the project states, “Landfills are reaching capacity at alarming rates, impacting the environment tremendously while also contributing to a culture of consumption.”

Students from UToledo prepare for the competition every year through a class offered in the Department of Art. The spring 2020 Biodesign Challenge course brought together students from multiple disciplines into the Department of Art under the direction of faculty members Brian Carpenter and Eric Zeigler. Students worked in interdisciplinary teams to research real-world problems and then sought to solve those problems with biotechnology and/or biomaterials. This year’s groups addressed potential eutrophication solutions, antimicrobial structures, innovative health testing devices, and consumption.

The Biodesign Challenge course asks students to stretch their known capabilities by making meaningful connections between disciplines and designing unique solutions to complex problems in a normal year. As the COVID-19 pandemic struck and the course moved to virtual learning, the teams continued to work extensively on their projects.

“We are truly amazed at the tenacity of our students, and the outcomes from remote research they were able to accomplish in such a difficult time,” Carpenter, assistant professor of art and gallery director, said.

“We are proud of the work every student has done, and we are excited to compete internationally again,” Zeigler, associate lecturer of art, said.

UToledo Unites in Solidarity to Identify Solutions to Address Systemic Racial Injustice

The University of Toledo’s campus community united in solidarity and support Thursday evening for those affected by the killing of George Floyd.

The first Dialogues on Diversity Virtual Town Hall brought together University leadership, faculty, staff, students and the public to reflect on their experiences, identify solutions to address systemic racial injustice, and highlight campus and community resources to aid in coping with trauma.

“I am so pleased with the dynamic, meaningful ideas that resulted from our successful discussion,” Dr. Willie McKether, vice president for diversity and inclusion, said. “I appreciate the passion and motivation of our Rocket family and the support we have for each other. This is the beginning of a series of respectful, painful conversations in the coming weeks, including when the semester starts.”

More than 350 people attended the event that featured panelists:

• UToledo Police Chief Jeff Newton;

• Benjamin Davis, UToledo law professor;

• Dr. Monita Mungo, UToledo assistant professor of sociology;

• Dr. La Tasha Sullivan, director of the University Counseling Center;

• Nyah Kidd, president of the Black Student Union;

• Darren Gordon, former president of the UToledo chapter of the Student National Medical Association;

• Giselle Zelaya, president of the Latino Student Union;

• Nick Thompson, president of Student Government;

• Anjali Phadke, vice president of Student Government; and

• Asher Sovereign with the Sexuality and Gender Alliance.

Members of the campus community shared personal experiences and the great sadness and fear sparked by watching the video of George Floyd’s death.

“As a teen growing up in Mississippi, my parents would consistently remind my siblings and me when we would leave the house for fun or to hang out with our family and friends, ‘Remember we love you, but you must come home at night,’” Dr. Phillip “Flapp” Cockrell, vice president for student affairs and vice provost, said. “As I got older and started to experience racism, discrimination and prejudice firsthand, I began to understand the meaning of those powerful 11 words. In essence, my parents were saying, ‘Always obey the law and follow their instructions and rules. Do as you are told. Don’t argue.’ These past two weeks have been the most difficult weeks in my life. When will this behavior stop? Am I next? I’m at a loss for words.”

“As I reflect on the events of the last few weeks and our community discussion last evening, I am inspired by our students, faculty, staff and alumni for their commitment, perseverance and passion to change the world,” UToledo President Sharon L. Gaber said. “Yet I grieve the recent senseless deaths of George Floyd and Breona Taylor. As a human and a mother, I cannot fathom the pain and anguish that their families are experiencing. Racial injustice, police brutality and disparate treatment have painfully existed for longer than all of us have been alive. As a campus community, we have made great strides to create a more open and inclusive community, working together to develop and implement UToledo’s first diversity plan. And yet it isn’t nearly enough. Now is the time to end this in our community, our country and in the world. I challenge each and every one of you to ‘be the change you want to see in the world.’”

Panelists brought forward ideas and solutions to elevate our community, such as training students in nonviolence and conflict transformation to teach them how to respond to what they will face while protesting by utilizing faculty expertise in the Peace Education Program, which is part of the Judith Herb College of Education.

“I am proud of the strength and courage of our students as they engage in deep, thoughtful, critical discussions and examine the ways we can change our society for the better,” Dr. Karen Bjorkman, provost and executive vice president for academic affairs, said. “It is our solemn responsibility and our honor to equip them with the knowledge and tools they need to lead that change into the future.”

Leaders from across the University have expressed their commitment to embracing the critical role higher education can and must play in facilitating open and honest discussions that empower us as a community and a nation to translate our ideals into actionable change.

• Dr. Heidi Appel, dean of the Jesup Scott Honors College: “We believe in the power of higher education to address major societal problems like this injustice. We hope that by challenging our students to think deeply about the world they live in and to take actions that support greater diversity, equity and inclusion, we are helping to build a better world.”

• Dr. Anne Balazs, dean of the College of Business and Innovation: “It is with great sadness that we bear witness to the events of the past week, with the untimely and violent death of George Floyd and the continuing expressions of hatred and prejudice. As members of a scholarly community, one which is dedicated to education and improving our shared quality of life, it is unacceptable to idly stand by and allow racism in all its many forms to persist.”

• Benjamin Barros, dean of the College of Law: “The past week’s events have shown the realities of the work we must do as a nation to ensure that our justice system protects and serves all people. Our mission at the law school is intrinsically tied to the mission of equal access to justice. We are uniquely positioned to empower future generations of lawyers to evaluate our country’s legal systems, engage in thoughtful discourse, and address inequality. The change we need to see as a nation begins with each of us doing our part to create a diverse, supportive and inclusive community.”

• Dr. Amanda Bryant-Friedrich, dean of the College of Graduate Studies: “Life is heavy for all of us today. It has been that way for some of us for many, many days. First, a global pandemic and now violence and division dominate our news cycle. I am sad, I am afraid, and I am hopeful. I am sorry for your loss, I am sorry for your fear, I am sorry for your anger, I am sorry for the lack of justice, I am sorry there is no cure, and I am sorry that I am sorry. You are valued, and we hear you. We are here for you today and every day.”

• Beau Case, dean of University Libraries: “The University Libraries believe that diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility are not merely ideals — they are core values which we display daily in our work. Our campus doors are open to all. Our services are free of bias. We offer safe spaces for exploration, discovery, lifelong learning and wonder.”

• Dr. Christopher Cooper, dean of the College of Medicine and Life Sciences: “From all appearances, he was neither protected with courage nor served with compassion. Now ‘I can’t breathe’ has become the rallying cry of protests locally and nationally, peaceful and violent. Lurking beneath this are the concerns and outrage of ongoing racism, systemic racism, institutional violence and failed inclusion. If we want to improve the world, we better start close to home with our region, our community and, most importantly, with ourselves.”

• Charlene Gilbert, dean of the College of Arts and Letters: “The peaceful protests occurring in many of our major cities and towns not only reflect the anger over the death of Mr. Floyd, but also represent years of frustration with the injustice and unequal treatment experienced by African Americans and people of color in communities all across this nation. The College of Arts and Letters is a community where we value and celebrate not only critical inquiry, but also thoughtful action. We want to thank every student, faculty member, staff person and alumnus who has participated in some form of action to add your voice to the many calling for justice.”

• Dr. John Laux, associate dean of student affairs in the College of Health and Human Services: “George Floyd’s murder at the hands of police officers is the latest example of violence perpetrated against African Americans. We honor George Floyd’s life, and those who were murdered or assaulted previously by focusing our attention on our society’s history of and ongoing racism and systemic social injustice by working collectively to be agents of change. The College of Health and Human Services trains students for careers in social service, health sciences and criminal justice, including police civil service. We recognize that we are a product of our society. The status quo is not acceptable. And, as such, we have work to do to root out and put an end to individual and institutional racism. We are committed to do the work necessary to be a part of the solution.”

• Dr. Linda Lewandowski, dean of the College of Nursing: “We know that long-term discrimination has negative effects on physical and mental health and that violence, discrimination and racism directly impact social determinants of health and result in health disparities and inequities. Given the disproportionate impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on our African-American communities, the health impact of continued disparities is even more profound. As healthcare professionals, we are in a unique position to address the health and the social justice issues that are so pressing in our nation at this time. Change begins with each one of us and is reflected in how we treat each other on a daily basis.”

• Mike O’Brien, vice president and athletic director: “Last night’s dialogue was excellent as it was very informative and insightful. We must stand together and be committed for equity, diversity and the fight against racial injustice.”

• Dr. John Plenefisch, interim dean of the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics: “The College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics must translate the powerful words and feelings expressed by those protesting systemic racism into sustained action that makes a concrete difference in our community, including through our work and actions here in our college. As scientists and mathematicians, we can take action against racism, bigotry and prejudice in many ways, including choosing to focus our research on issues that disproportionally impact marginalized communities or groups, and deliberately supporting the careers and training of people of color as future generations of scientists and mathematicians.”

• Dr. Gary Pollack, dean of the College of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences: “Our obligation to our fellow human beings is not diminished by the color of their skin, or by how they express their spirituality, or by their country of origin, or by whom they happen to love. Those characteristics, which some voices emphasize in an attempt to divide us, are infinitesimal compared to the many things that make us what we are: the human family.”

• Dr. Mike Toole, dean of the College of Engineering: “I found each of the speakers and the entire event to be compelling and inspiring. It is critical that we have administrators, faculty and student leaders on campus who are speaking out to support the protests against racial injustice in our nation. Eliminating institutionalized racism, white privilege and racist violence will take many voices and much work.”

• Dr. Raymond Witte, dean of the Judith Herb College of Education: “We all want to feel safe when in the presence of the police. This will require time and honest dialogue because many, including myself now, don’t feel safe. I am now faced with the reality that police may not act impartially and without bias. To be honest, most of us are biased in some way. However, the decisions police make can have life and death outcomes.”

The next Dialogues on Diversity Virtual Roundtable is scheduled Thursday, June 25, from 5:30 to 7 p.m. Access and panelist participation information will be released prior to the event, which is titled “The Death of George Floyd: Race and Anti-Blackness in America.”

New Research From UToledo Medical Resident Links COVID-19 to Loss of Taste

Nearly half of individuals who contract COVID-19 experience an abnormal or complete loss of their sense of taste, a new analysis led by a University of Toledo researcher has found.

The systematic review, published in the journal Gastroenterology, could provide yet another diagnostic hint for clinicians who suspect their patients might have the disease.

Aziz

“Earlier studies didn’t note this symptom, and that was probably because of the severity of other symptoms like cough, fever and trouble breathing,” said Dr. Muhammad Aziz, chief internal medicine resident at UToledo and the paper’s lead author. “We were beginning to note that altered or lost sense of taste were also present, not just here and there, but in a significant proportion.”

Aziz and his research collaborators analyzed data from five studies conducted between mid-January and the end of March. Of the 817 patients studied, 49.8% experienced changes to their sense of taste. Researchers suspect the true prevalence could be even higher because some of the studies were based on reviews of patient charts, which may not have noted every symptom.

“We propose that this symptom should be one of the screening symptoms in addition to the fever, shortness of breath and productive cough. Not just for suspected COIVD patients, but also for the general population to identify healthy carriers of the virus,” Aziz said.

Prior research has found that a significant number of people who have COVID-19 don’t know they’ve been infected and may be spreading the virus.

Aziz and his research collaborators suspect an altered sense of taste is more prevalent in patients with minor symptoms, though more studies are needed to validate that suspicion. Even so, changes in an individual’s sense of taste could be a valuable way to identify carriers who are otherwise mostly asymptomatic.

Taste disorders are tied to a variety of viral illnesses. The review did not attempt to identify the reason that COVID-19 is causing changes in patients’ sense of taste; however, researchers theorize it could be COVID-19’s ability to bind to what’s known as the ACE-2 receptor, which is expressed in epithelial cells on the tongue and mouth.

Because the novel coronavirus was unknown prior to its emergence in January, scientists have been moving rapidly to learn more about both the virus and the disease it causes.

Aziz said the drip of new information shows the need for more scientists to dig into the impacts of COVID-19.

“A lot of things are being missed, which is why I think researchers from every field should try to look into this and see if it’s affecting their specialty in one way or another,” he said. “Who knows what systems this virus is affecting. If we can catch it earlier in the disease course, we can prevent the spread of the virus and potentially have ways of managing it.”