Cases of Alzheimer’s disease (AD) are rising exponentially due to increasing global life expectancy. There are approximately 50 million sufferers worldwide, with prevalence rising most rapidly in low-income countries such as Africa and Asia. There is currently no definite diagnosis of AD until after death, thus an early biomarker for AD is urgently required in order to administer timelier and more effective interventions. Olfactory dysfunction (problems with the sense of smell) is one of the earliest, preclinical symptoms observed in AD. Olfaction is a promising early biomarker for use worldwide as it is easy, cheap to measure, and not reliant on specialist clinicians or laboratory analysis. We carried out a meta-analysis to determine the credibility of olfaction in diagnosing AD in the preclinical stages, by comparing olfaction in healthy controls against AD patients and patients with mild cognitive impairment (MCI). Data from 10 articles were subjected to two comparative meta-analyses. In the case of AD, the results illustrated that the overall magnitude of effect size was more apparent, d
= −1.63, 95% CI [−1.95, −1.31], in comparison to that of MCI, d
= −0.81, 95% CI [−1.08, −0.55]. This shows that olfaction worsens progressively as patients progress from MCI to AD, highlighting the potential for olfactory dysfunction to identify AD in the preclinical stages prior to MCI.
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