Scientists Discover Bad Odor Enzyme That Causes Body Odor

Scientists Discover Bad Odor Enzyme That Causes Body Odor

Our bodies are extraordinary. Unfortunately, as animals with a strong sense of smell, we are not always satisfied with the olfactory signals they elicit.

If you’ve been to a festival and found yourself in bed beyond the 24-hour limit of antiperspirant deodorant, then you’ve experienced what’s colloquially known as ‘Body Smell’. The precise effect of this perfume has eluded scientists from doing research. But a new study published in the journal Nature has correctly pinpointed this irritating enzyme.

Body Odor Enzyme

Every part of our body is covered with bacteria. But only a few are associated with scents. Researchers from the University of York in collaboration with Unilever scientists have discovered a “body odor enzyme” found only in bacteria attached to smelly armpits. This enzyme, called C-T lyase (C-T Lyase), facilitates the production of thiols, a common culprit in body odor, from several bacterial structures belonging to the Staphylococcus family.

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Michelle Rudden from the Department of Biology at York University: “Unraveling the structure of this ‘body odor enzyme’ allowed us to accurately identify the molecular step inside some of the bacteria that make odor molecules. This is a significant advance in understanding how body odor works and will enable the development of target inhibitors that stop body odor production at its source without disrupting the underarm microbiome.”

We often associate bacteria with illness, but these body odor-producing bacteria are part of our natural skin microbiome. The most common culprit in bad odor was found to be Staphylococcus hominis, which makes a common and harmless residence on the skin of animals, including humans. The research also revealed that the ‘body odor enzyme’ was present in S. hominist long before humans appeared.

(Staphylococcus hominis is a coagulase-negative member of the bacterial genus Staphylococcus, which consists of Gram-positive, spherical cells in clusters. It occurs very commonly as a harmless substance on human and animal skin. And is known to produce thioalcohol compounds that contribute to body odor.)

Unilever co-author Dr. Gordon James: “This research was really eye-opening. “It was fascinating to discover that an important odor-producing enzyme exists in only a few armpit bacteria and evolved there tens of millions of years ago.”

Reference: “The molecular basis of thioalcohol production in human body odour” by Michelle Rudden, Reyme Herman, Matthew Rose, Daniel Bawdon, Diana S. Cox, Eleanor Dodson, Matthew T. G. Holden, Anthony J. Wilkinson, A. Gordon James and Gavin H. Thomas, 27 July 2020, Scientific Reports.


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