Data Science-Based Analysis of Patient Subgroup Structures Suggest Effects of Rhinitis on All Chemosensory Perceptions in the Upper Airways
Viral rhinitis contributes significantly to olfactory dysfunction, but it is unclear how many patients have other chemosensory symptoms in addition to olfactory loss. This was addressed in the present reanalysis of data previously published in Pellegrino R, Walliczek-Dworschak U, Winter G, Hull D, Hummel T. 2017. Investigation of chemosensitivity during and after an acute cold. Int Forum Allergy Rhinol. 7(2):185-191, using unsupervised and supervised machine-learning methods. Fifty-eight patients with acute rhinitis and 59 healthy controls were assessed for orthonasal and retronasal olfactory function, taste, and intranasal trigeminal sensitivity. Unsupervised analysis showed that during rhinitis, clinical scores of olfactory function, expressed as threshold, discrimination, identification (TDI) values, were trimodally distributed. Two minor modes were separated from the main mode at TDI = 30.5, which corresponds to the established limit of hyposmia. This trimodal distribution was not observed after the rhinitis subsided. Olfactory function was not significantly impaired in 40% of all rhinitis patients, whereas it was transiently impaired in 59%. For this group, supervised machine-learning algorithms could be trained with information on retronasal olfactory function, gustatory function, and trigeminal sensitivity to assign patients to subgroups based on orthonasal olfactory function with a balanced classification accuracy of 64-65%. The ability to recognize patients with olfactory loss based on retronasal olfactory function as well as gustatory function and trigeminal sensitivity suggests in turn that these modalities are affected by rhinitis. However, the only modest accuracy at which this information allowed to reproduce the olfactory diagnosis indicated they are involved in the symptomatology of rhinitis to a lesser extent compared with the orthonasal olfactory function.